“You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” This quote is well known in a range of contexts, from total quality management to software coding, health and other areas. As business process and quality management pioneer Dr. H. James Harrington stated, “Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”
At CREATe.org, we work with companies around the world to improve the protection of intellectual property and trade secrets and the prevention of corruption. How? Our approach is based on “measure and improve.” Through our CREATe Leading Practices services, companies are able to measure and benchmark current practices through an online self-assessment. Then they gain insights on their current strengths and weaknesses from a CREATe expert. This leads to expert guidance on key risks and priority areas for improvement and access to comprehensive guides and CREATe resources. For more information on CREATe’s “measure and improve” approach, visit CREATe Leading Practices.
Following participation in CREATe Leading Practices services, companies engage in the ‘improvement’ phase, during which CREATe experts work with companies on dedicated improvement projects. Following is a brief overview of our approach to effective change. IP and trade secret protection and anti-corruption need to be embedded into a company’s operations yet it is often hard to get the attention of the relevant business units. Starting a sweeping new compliance initiative is usually a recipe for failure. It is more effective to strategically target very specific short-term improvement projects that address key risk areas. These focused projects can be designed to start cross-functional collaboration on a smaller scale. Each improvement project is a building block in developing a stronger program.
The elements of an effective improvement project
- Goal: For greatest efficiency, CREATe recommends launching improvement projects with a quantifiable goal designed to address a specific high-risk area in a short time period. Break the goal into specific milestones necessary to meet the goal. By focusing on achieving these milestones, your company can improve several processes. This can be a more effective way of driving change rather than simply focusing on improving processes.
- Collaboration: Each project should be designed to facilitate process improvement and accelerate cross-functional collaboration and peer learning. This helps to embed business processes across operations and to break down silos.
- Build on Success: Starting with a series of short-term projects allows the program to grow and expand based on the measurable success of the initial projects. Research on implementation of other compliance programs has shown the positive ripple-effect in an organization from successfully completed short-term projects. This can be a more effective way to embed processes into business operations.
Meeting improvement project goals will usually require improvement in several of the process categories CREATe uses to assess a company’s IP protection, trade secret protection or anti-corruption program. Processes that commonly need improvement include developing and implementing practical procedures, training, monitoring, and corrective actions.
Example improvement projects
Below are example project goals that would be relevant to ongoing improvement, broken down into milestones. Use of milestones offers an engaging way for process improvements to take place while continuously working towards the larger goal:
- Example Goal #1 – trade secret protection: Within six months, 100% of employees at headquarters take and pass a training course on our policies for protecting trade secrets
- Review and update trade secret protection policies as needed
- Develop training curriculum and a related test
- Develop an efficient test distribution method and recordkeeping log
- Administer the test and review the results
- Example Goal #2 – anti-corruption: In six months, conduct anti-corruption due diligence on 100 third parties
- Build internal awareness and support for anti-corruption initiative with senior management as well as sales agents
- Develop a due diligence checklist
- Align due diligence request with contractual terms in third party-agreements
- Distribute due diligence request to third parties, and collect upon completion
Based on the successful results of the initial improvement project, select the next high-risk area to tackle. CREATe advises selecting a goal that will reinforce and expand the progress made in achieving the preceding goal.
Improvement is not an isolated event, but rather it is important to measure and improve your program over time; ongoing improvement projects are integral to embedding compliance into business operations, including how the company operates and how employees, contractors and others behave.