IT directors should move from managing periods of discrete change to a culture of continuous improvement, Bob Hawkins, IT strategy manager at Ford Europe, told last week's IT Directors Forum.
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"We should not be thinking in terms of 'either-or', such as revolutionary versus evolutionary, or radical versus incremental, or disruptive versus continuous," he said. "Radical change without continuous improvement results in decay of any achievement until the next radical change.
"Radical process innovations are not sustainable without the foundations of a culture of continuous improvement."
Ford adopted this approach for the revamp of its order fulfilment system, a major ongoing process reorganisation that started in 1999 and which, over the past two years, has entered its final phase.
"Process innovation can take time," said Hawkins. "The next silver bullet does not work unless you are getting the right environment to get that change in place."
Ford's new Europe-wide system has resulted in a single order pipeline, jointly managed across the sales, marketing and production divisions.
Dealers were closely involved in the project, and the system has enabled the number of cars built to order to rise from 20% to 50%. The time taken to build to order has been cut from between 45 and 90 days to between 15 and 30 days.
There is also now a greater than 70% reliability that a delivery promise can be kept, whereas before that metric was unknown, Hawkins said.