Continuous Improvement: Running at Full Capacity

By Mac M. Martirossian, CPA

In nearly every type of business, there is a compelling need to be functional a high percentage of the time.  Up and running at full capacity.  Have you ever thought about the number of times you are disappointed when another party fails to deliver on full capacity?

  • Your favorite show is about to air and the cable operator has an outage with no estimated of when it will be restored.
  • The backlog of orders has not been this high for month and the machinery in the plan is down for a day with no estimate of when the repair part will arrive.
  • There is only one Automated Teller Machine in the airport terminal you are in and has an “out of order” sign on it, frayed at the edges from the extended sunlight exposure.

It’s times like these when you wish the organizations behind the organizations responsible for these breakdowns had heard of “the five 9s”.  The term refers to a benchmark or standard used by entities such as Information Technology organizations for remaining operable 99.999% of the time.

Some organizations are never perfect in their “up time”.  Others have no choice in the matter.  For instance a 911 call center operation has to have less than a .001% down time, since they deal with life and death cases and it is thus mission critical to their operations.

What if we all strived to be at a 99.999% operational capacity through continuous improvement?  Here are some points to consider in making that a reality:

  • Establish benchmarks:  Whether you run a department of people or manage a single process, establish targets for your own performance or that of your Team.
  • Measure everything:  Learning about the 5 nines was a reminder of the importance of measuring every aspect of performance, productivity and everything we do, in order to be in a position to improve it.  Second to GE, Google has taught us the benefits of capturing analytics and using it  to improve results.
  • Celebrate incremental improvement:  Five 9s may not be realistic in your field.  However, your customers will notice any improvement in your uptime and your associated will be energized by incremental progress to reach your ultimate goal.

Here is the good news.  There is no downside in this mission.  By keeping your sights on the 5 nines, you will naturally improve performance and uptime and if you don’t get there, well you will be 99.99% better than you are today.

We may not be a 911 center, but to our customers, our ability to be up and running 100% of the time is mission critical to them.


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