Part #6 in a Series: What Our ISO Certification Means to You
I’ve been writing from time to time about how the things we do here at Superior Business Solutions in order to maintain ISO standards have a direct impact on you and your business. Each post will feature one of the key content areas listed in the requirements for certification.
It’s no surprise that successful businesses are the ones making good decisions most of the time. That only stands to reason, given the competitive pressures facing businesses today, and the statistics that show a surprisingly small percentage of new businesses ever make it to long-term success. But where do those good decisions come from?
There’s plenty of bravado out there that suggests that “going with your gut” and having the courage to take chances is a trait of great leaders. But the process we completed to achieve ISO 9001:2008 certification helped us realize one thing very clearly: if you have a choice between intuition and information, go with the facts.
Better Data Leads to Better Decisions
One important component of the ISO certification standards is “fact-based decision-making.” We have certainly always believed in a reasoned approach rather than “shooting from the hip” on most big decisions. But in pursuing and achieving the ISO standards, we learned to do a better job of it.’
Now, it’s important to understand what a decision based on factual elements really means. No one is suggesting that the dreaded phenomenon of “paralysis by analysis” should rule the day. Of course not. It simply means that sufficient data points are part of the process, and the evaluation of that data plays a role in the decision.
Stealing a Base – Courage or Calculation?
As I think about it, I relate it to stealing second in a baseball game. Sure, there’s a great deal of personal confidence and aggressive attitude involved. But the most successful base-stealers take into account the field surface, the weather conditions, the position of defensive players, and the skills and awareness of the opposing pitcher before they attempt it.
The same things apply in business. The more factors that seem to be in your favor, the more likely you are to enjoy a successful outcome. That’s not being scared or timid – it’s being smart.
Actually, fact-based decision making isn’t something you can incorporate when it’s time for that decision to be made. The real seeds of doing it right, according to ISO, are planted long before. The most critical factor is in the ability of your system to collect and evaluate the right data so that the right information is available when needed.
Naturally, this places a premium on knowing what you need to know, and putting in place the mechanisms that track, deliver, and assess that information. If the decision involves a new or enhanced product launch, for example, do you know what your customers will think? If you have a regular feedback loop and customer communication, you will have a good idea.
Does the competition have anything similar, either on the market or in the works? Unless you periodically review competitive activity, you’re whistling in the dark. If it involves a labor or personnel decision, similar reporting processes and record-keeping can eliminate much of the guesswork.
We Thrive on Information
Here at Superior, we had a pretty good head start on meeting the ISO standards for fact-based decision making. One of the main reasons we can promise excellent results to our customers in their print supply chain and promotional products commodity management is the careful manner in which we track and evaluate the performance of our partners and vendors. Every single project becomes a strong data point that enables us to have an even tighter, more focused profile of every step in the process.
It’s obvious to us that any issues that involve the quality of the finished product, the timing of its delivery or the efficiency of the process for our customers becomes a valuable performance indicator for all future dealings and referrals. We have formal reviews and re-evaluations of our system and all the players in it. And our push to achieve and maintain ISO 9001:2008 standards in this area has reinforced the importance we place on it.
How Important is Data to You?
How much importance do you place on the information or “data” you use to make decisions? Are some driven by statistics while others are based mostly on strong feelings? There’s no magic formula, and certainly many businesses have been built upon the opinions and hunches of a strong-willed executive. I’d love to know the role research plays in your decisions, so give me a call if you’re willing to share. I’d also be happy to share, in return, the things we’ve learned in going through our process about measuring and collecting important information