Remember when quality improvement and the quest for operational excellence were on everyone’s minds? Things have changed. Nowadays when managers talk about increasing operating efficiency it’s usually just code for “cutting costs.” All too often they accomplish this by eliminating jobs, curtailing customer service and raising the prices of goods and services, often with accompanying reductions in quality.

 We all pay the costs of cost-cutting

As consumers we’ve all felt the impact of these so-called increases in operating efficiency. Need a simple question answered? First you’ll have to outsmart an uncooperative automated attendant. (Is it just me, or do these robots seem to delight in frustrating us? They’re my nominee for the “Most Universally Loathed Technology Ever” award. ) If you really need to talk to a person, you’ll spend more time than ever before on hold, awaiting your turn to speak with an overworked customer service representative in an understaffed call center. And you’re probably paying more now for products that were shoddily manufactured and don’t perform as well as they should.

What does “improving operating efficiency” really mean?

Temporarily increasing profits through ill-considered reductions in head count, neglecting the needs of customers or cheapening the quality of products and services are short-sighted strategies. They have nothing whatsoever to do with actually increasing operating efficiency. They can result in long-lasting damage to an organization’s reputation and erosion of its market share.

Genuine increases in operating efficiency don’t do that. They lead to improvements in quality and to enhanced customer satisfaction. They can also provide competitive advantage and even result in the need to hire more employees to help you meet the growing demand for your product or service.

In the next few blog entries, we’ll look at ways in which you can increase your organization’s operating efficiency. Being who we are, we’ll take a documentation-centric point of view. We’ll be talking about how getting your arms around the content that drives your business can help you truly increase efficiency in every aspect of your enterprise and improve every aspect of how you operate.