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Here’s how to keep your business improvement projects realistic

do-the-right-thing-vertMany professionals strive to improve their businesses, but many projects to improve businesses end up failing. Billions of dollars are wasted each year on failed projects.

“Do The Right Thing,” a book by David A. Duryea, aims to provide business owners with guidance they can use to ensure their projects are successful. Duryea is a business improvement veteran who also serves as an expert witness in court cases about failed business improvement projects.

First things first: this book could have benefited from more careful attention to the way it was written and edited. If you are the type of reader who would feel frustrated or otherwise put off by its occasionally clunky, incomplete sentences, its rambling style, or its use of jaggy, low-resolution graphics, you may want to avoid reading this book in one sitting.

If you’ve got the patience to see past those flaws, you can glean some wisdom from Duryea, who illustrates his points with stories from the trenches of business improvement.

In one example, which Duryea learned about when he served as an expert witness, a food service company tried to implement enterprise resource planning software, but the new software caused the company to serve its customers poorly, which resulted in its bankruptcy filing. The reason? The implementation team “had a misinterpretation of improvement linkage with business strategy or even the core business model,” Duryea says.

Duryea starts part 1 of the book by laying out the “law of business reality,” which says organizations serve their customers profitably — that is, using a balance of quality and efficiency — or they cease to exist.

His advice is that every improvement initiative must relate to an organization’s core business model, which Duryea defines as the way it serves its customers profitably. That core business model can be influenced internally, or by the business environment.

Understanding how all of these topics relate — profitability, quality, and the role of influencers — is as important as strategizing so these all align when developing a business improvement project, Duryea says.

Part 2 is about the structure of business process: the operationalization of the core business model. In it, Duryea lays out that the best way to further a company’s core business model is to improve its functions in a way that lines up with the core business model. There’s also an emphasis on not losing sight of the objective of business improvement, which relates well to the law of business reality.

In Part 3, Duryea discusses business enablement, which is the ability to perform enterprise and core business model processes with company resources. In a chapter on technology, Duryea provides special caution on the expenses associated with information technology projects. Don’t be fooled, he says, in bold letters: no technology vendor will be a match for your company’s core business model right out of the box. Moreover, technology on its own is not a core business model. If your business isn’t sustainable, technology can’t fix it.

Throughout the book, Duryea keeps relating everything back to the law of business reality, which is probably a good reminder for anyone thinking of improving their businesses. Staying focused on this law — remembering that a business must serve customers and remain profitable — can put you on track for investing only in what Duryea calls “reality-based” improvements.

If you’re thinking of improving some aspect of your business, the information in “Do The Right Thing” could be just what you need to steer you toward an improvement that won’t bankrupt the company. The book challenges readers to truly understand their organization’s core business model without losing sight of it. That sort of focus is essential for a successful business improvement project.

Do The Right Thing
in Business Improvement, Including Process and Technology
By David A. Duryea
Westbow Press. 180 pages. $17.95

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