Where can improvements be found?

Improvements can be found in pretty much everything we do.

Here are a couple of very simple examples.

Example 1 – The BLT Sandwich

I was sat in a café and quite fancied the BLT on their menu.  I am quite a fussy eater, and don’t like mayonnaise. I usually state, no mayonnaise, but on this occasion I assumed there would be no mayonnaise. This is because all of the other sandwiches on the menu stated – contains mayonnaise.

The BLT arrived, with mayonnaise, so I returned it and explained by assumption. “This happens a lot” said the waitress, and returned with a ‘mayonnaise free’ BLT for me a while later.

I could have said at the start, and did have to wait a little longer, but the business (the café) had wasted time and food. The waitress has to come to my table and back more times than necessary, the chef had to make an extra sandwich unnecessarily, and there was wasted food (unless the staff ate it).

Example 2 – Headed Paper Goes This Way Up

During an improvement project, I noticed that an administrator (who was seated next to a shared printer) was frequently interrupted by people asking her which way up headed paper goes.

When she was out of the office for a couple of days I observed that people would ask me. I pretended not to know and witnessed them either walking along the corridor to ask someone else, or keep walking backwards and forwards from their desk until they guessed correctly. Sometimes it would take up to ten minutes to print one sheet of A4 paper the right way up (then they would leave the headed paper in the printer, and ruin somebody else’s printing).

An A4 sheet / diagram, stating “headed paper goes in the printer this way up” was taped securely to the top of the printer, and interruptions were almost eradicated.

A very simple, yet more formal and controlled observation identified that the cost (time wasted unnecessarily through interruptions, various trials, and paper wasted) came to between £3,000 and £5,000 per year for that printer.

There were over 40 shared printers in the building.

Example 3 – Attention to detail

As I waited to be called into an important meeting, for a company manufacturing high end products for very rich customers, I noticed a model of one of their products sitting gleaming proudly in a polished glass presentation case. My attention however, was drawn to the little brass plaque, which said what this particulat model was. The brass plaque had a big scratch across it, and the wooden block it was mounted on looked a little crooked and tatty.

This was placed right next to the sofa where potential customers wait to be seen, and no doubt be given excellent levels of attention. Staff were also very friendly and polite, as you would expect in a business where a bespoke product can cost anything from £2m to £10m each.

The business may have expected to be presenting a gleaming model, but they were in fact presenting poor attention to detail.

The plaque obviously was deemed the least important element to the business, but the message passed on by ignoring the quality of this is more than enough to put off a very valuable customer.

Who wants to spend millions of pounds of their hard earned cash with a company that doesn’t pay attention to detail?

These may seem like very small and petty examples. That is precisely the point.

People are often unconcerned about the little savings to be made, or the apparently insignificant detail. Some are so small and insignificant that they become invisible. However, as demonstrated – the little things can end up costing a lot.

Contact us to find out how Look to Improve can help identify improvements in your business or organisation.

Have a look at the services we offer.


  1. Business Process Improvement (BPI) - Look to Improve - January 7, 2013

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