A few years ago, I was lucky enough to visit a very large and very old bespoke glass manufacturing company in Europe. They manufacture glass roofing systems for church courtyards, glass stairs and a lot more. They have international clients and operations but no formal strategic plans, nor any formalised systems and procedures.

Their factory and offices were immaculate, and their de facto systems and procedures were obviously working… but how?

The universal answer to the question floored me – “We all know the Seele1 Way; the plans, systems and procedures are all clear and understood and don’t need to be formalised.”

The disadvantage of the Seele method is one of sustainability and adherence, particularly in time of change. Nevertheless I enjoyed the experience and respect them for their strong culture that ensured everybody understood and did the right thing.

I appreciate the Seele Way and I also believe that performance needs to be formalised and measured before and after any change, in order to improve the outcome, improve the system and its associated processes.

As far as I can determine, all national quality award models include the requirement for formalised systems and procedures. 

What should the core elements of those systems and procedures be? These five things are worth investigating:

  • Process capability – What can the system produce as is? Remember the Red Beads2 exercise!
  • Targets – Know what your customer needs before you set targets.
  • To get a different result – Change the system!
  • Improve the system – Improving the system must be a constant!
  • Reduce rework and rubbish.

Business excellence principles indicate that your systems and procedures must be aligned with your Mission, Vision and Values.

1  Seele GmbH is one of the world’s top addresses for the design and construction of façades and complex building envelopes made from glass, steel, aluminium, membranes and other high-tech materials. The technology leader in façade construction was founded in 1984 by master glazier Gerhard Seele and steelwork engineer Siegfried Gossner. www.seele.com

2 The Red beads exercise is one where the futility of incentives and punishments for poor performance are highlighted in an entertaining business game.