Working Out Without The Sweat


As we approach the holidays, many of us are concerned about not indulging in bad dietary habits and then having to live with the guilt of weight gain. To combat the excesses of holiday eating, many of us will have to endure the sweat, pain, and fatigue of working out.  Contrarily, businesses have a chance to work out as well, but their workout is not nearly as tiring, does not cause perspiration, and in fact; actually makes things easier and more productive.

Began at GE

As with many business initiatives,Fairfield’s  General Electric (GE) was at the forefront of a particular business improvement process.  Since the late 1980′s GE has been conducting a methodology for reducing complexity in business processes and improving employee accountability for results.  The process is referred to as “GE WorkOut” and has now been adapted by many other companies to help them create more productivity and efficiencies.  The process is focused on:

  • Streamlining existing processes and simplify the steps/complexity of procedures
  • Reduce and eliminate work tasks that do not contribute value
  • Identify and prioritize new business needs/initiatives quickly
  • Reduce the time required to make decisions
  • Increase the level of compliance with new initiatives
  • Improve implementation support for business processes
  • Empower workforces to asssume responsibility for results (ownership of outcomes).

How it Works

The WorkOut process is implemented by bringing members of cross-functional groups (stakeholders in the outcome, production, delivery, or other involvement) together and ensuring that those closest to the work output can contribute recommendations that can be acted upon fairly immediately.  Ordinarily, recommendations are tied to action plans and implemented within three months (90 days).  Senior management is linked into the process by providing oversight and guidance on the strategic imperatives or most important priorities forbusiness  improvement.

When correctly implemented, the WorkOut process builds synergies across different functional silos that often emerge within organizations to focus attention on business issues that are shared or experienced in common across departments.  Further, it serves to reduce the disparity in views on issues between the management team and those tasked with performing job tasks. Lastly, it also encourages shared values that positively impact the business without regard for organizational structure, managerial level, tenure, etc.  The internal morale and commitment to the organization therefore often improves.

The WorkOut process includes immediate follow up and action planning to implement recommendations.  Unlike other committees that are formed to “study” issues and rarely take the steps to recommend actions to improve results.  The WorkOut process is most effective when it can be implemented and focused on solving a business issue that cuts across multiple functions and has the endorsement and support of senior managers, while also assigning the right mix of people that are empowered to act upon the output of the WorkOut team’s recommendations.

Importance of Team

As anyone who has ever been part of a group or a team tasked with achieving an objective can attest, if the group is not universally committed to the same goal, the chances of succeeeding is greatly diminished.  In many organizations, management makes decisions without a full appreciation for what those decisions may mean for those that have to execute or implement them.  Those that have responsibility for ensuring that work is completed correctly according to management’s wishes are often left feeling under-appreciated and as if management is disconnected from the ramifications of those decisions.

Michael Jordan famously commented that, “talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”  The WorkOut process provides opportunity for team members to collaborate to ensure that the work is done according to realistic contraints, and done in a way that maximizes the skills of the team members.

David Zahn

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