Continuous Improvement (CI) should not be ‘flavour of the month’ - critical issues to Implement CI
Wherever you are on the road to change there are many pitfalls on the way to creating a culture of continuous improvement within your organisation. CI should start at the top – which means winning the commitment and ownership of the SMT (Senior Management Team) to drive for improvement.
‘Bottom Up’ Change Driven with Top Down Commitment
Most CI initiatives actually start at the bottom – but then their sustainability is determined by three things, the actions from the SMT to support the ideas and how well these are implemented, how the success stories are publicised and bedded down in the culture, and how staff are motivated so that their flow of ideas become ‘business as usual’.
Magical Toyota Equation
Toyota, with 300,000 employees, tell the outside World that they implement at least 5,000 new, small ideas every day. Ideas don’t just relate to manufacturing operations, but also to design of products and processes, Health and Safety, L&D, performance management, team work, conflict resolution between functional teams and measurement and improvement of core processes.
It is phenomenal hat Toyota also state that annually, on average, they process “187 ideas from each employee (both white and blue collar) for improvement, and 97% of these are implemented”. What is really concerning is most of these changes are installed in less than 72 hours after they have been suggested.
Can you meet the Challenge?
That’s a heck of a challenge to the UK, Europe and the USA, where most organisations don’t even measure or value the number of ideas flowing from staff to management. And when we do come up with ideas, and when these have been correctly analysed and evaluated, they are not often speedily implemented.
Before starting out on the road to CI you have to keep some considerations in mind. I will talk through some here, but for a detailed process that works with a custom designed Learning Management System to support your efforts you need to contact us direct.
It will not surprise you that most of the barriers to any change are behaviourial – and until you are prepared to create the ‘learning strategies’ to change behaviour – then no change in behaviour will take place.
Three things you should never, ever do
1. CI is not Cost Reduction
Never confuse old style suggestion schemes with Continuous Improvement. Suggestion schemes are usually ill-thought through incentivised programmes designed to reduce costs, or trying to create temporary surge in revenue from outdated products and services. Staff loathe them, they publicly and privately question the real motives behind such schemes, fearing headcount reduction, and they create an inappropriate degree of competition between individual staff and teams.
2. Create Multiple Remuneration Systems for Staff
Why reward staff financially for ideas for improvement which should naturally flow from their day to day work? If you ran your own small company I am sure you would not expect to pay staff for turning up and then pay them extra for coming up with good ideas.
3. Fail to Identify behaviours and engagement to want to create a Culture of CI
Engagement in this case is driven purely by very basic human motivations focusing short-term rewards rather than longer term commitment and contribution. It leads to excessive competition with who comes out with the best ideas, most have been around for ages – but no one was listening until the cash incentive comes along.
Three Things your should do
1. Be Honest and Engage in Strategy Formation
When you develop your strategy you need to educate people in the desired behaviour and the reasoning behind creating a culture of continuous improvement. You need to be honest and credible with your people
2. Be Honest – Engage others in Design of the Process
Highlight precisely why you are pursing CI – being totally transparent and when you deign your variant of CI you need to work closely with staff so true employee engagement is achieved. How? You utilise their inputs and talents in the design of the process. It’s not a programme – it’s a process.
3. Be Credible – Test, run Pilots and Listen to Feedback
Test and Pilot it and ensure that you are clear on how you will reward staff for their contribution. No doubt you will come across a lot of cynicism. So, be prepared to be brutally honest. Most people support the whole idea of CI – it’s the way it is introduced to staff that is the issue.
CI is a Process, it should become a distinct element of the Culture
There are many barriers you need to overcome before you can win the real tangible commitment of the Top Team.
This may shock, you but most change initiatives would never see the light of day if they were waiting for more than 50% support from the top Team. CI is a learning process for them to. You better ensure that the process you design does not just look good on paper as a process flow, or ‘swim line’ diagram, but that it deals with the blocks and resistance you will encounter on the route to behaviour change.
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