7 Continuous Improvement Tips for Business
1. Mindset Matters: You need more than the right tools to see sustained change
There are a number of systematic Continuous Improvement tools that enable you to optimise your business, but unless you target behaviour change, and the intangible levels of change that influence behaviours, you will not see long-term sustained change from your improvement efforts. This involves not only improving the knowledge and capability of your workforce, but also includes addressing those ‘invisible’ factors that influence behaviours and the adoption of change – namely, values and beliefs, identity and purpose, that together, form culture and mindset. When people understand the ‘why’, they become more committed to changing their behaviour, which allows for tools to be incorporated seamlessly. But without a change in the culture, mindset and behaviours across your organisation, improvement efforts will not have any long-term or sustained practical implications.
2. A complex analysis requires a strategic approach
Whilst complex analysis tools are utilised to understand the current state of fragmented processes, you should take a strategic approach to solving these problems. Your ideal future state will always have a list of opportunities for it to become a reality, however, no business, regardless of size or sector, has endless supply of time, money and resources to solve a problem and pursue perfection. Taking a strategic approach to improvement projects will therefore ensure that you create the highest impact on your business without exhausting all your valuable resources at once. A strategic approach requires you to cherry pick improvements that give you the highest benefit, at the lowest cost, with the least level of difficulty.
3. Quick wins will gain you momentum
Gain team motivation by initiating improvements that have an immediate benefit and can be executed quickly and easily first. Some improvements do not need a project management approach (such as DMAIC). These are JDI opportunities, famously coined by NIKE’s slogan – Just Do It! Making a leadership decision to prioritise JDI’s in an organisational culture that is vulnerable to change, is the best way to generate momentum and encourage team and executive-level support. A simple approach to identifying these is to use a 2×2 matrix, with each potential project mapped against benefit vs effort or cost, allowing you to visually identify the projects that may be potential quick wins. Acknowledging and recognising your team in accomplishing these will also create foundations to tackle the larger more complex problems for that desired future state.
4. Engage senior leadership for Executive Alignment
Top-down approaches are even more important than bottom-up, when it comes to Continuous Improvement implementation. Key leadership engagement is necessary to align values and behaviours that drive the organisational culture towards true north. This involves the executive team playing an active role in participating in the strategy, planning, and implementation of Continuous Improvement projects, rather than assigning and delegating to lower management levels. To engage senior leaders, you must speak in the language of leadership which means developing clear links to strategic objectives and measurable ROI. Without the engagement of senior and middle managers, successful adoption of Continuous Improvement tools and methodologies across the organisation is a difficult task to achieve.
5. Your people come first
Without people a process will fail. Continuous Improvement is a collaborative effort, where people form the core of the project – from identifying the voice of the customer, defining a problem, brainstorming potential process improvements, and implementing solutions. It is not only essential to invest in improving their knowledge, capability and confidence through training, but a standardised Communication Plan is also necessary to align your team, establishing Continuous Improvement as a core part of your organisation’s goals and strategy planning. Consistent and seamless communication is key to achieving success with any change project, and is necessary for the sustainability of improvement efforts.
6. Recognition is key to success
It is essential that you recognise and reward your team through Certification. A Certification process is important to not only demonstrate that your team successfully understands Continuous Improvement tools and methodologies, but is also integral for recognising team members efforts and engagement with the program. This is imperative because leadership recognition and tapping into the psyche of ‘what is in it for me’ is critical to the success of your strategy. It provides your team members with personal recognition of their individual capability to achieve throughout their career, outside of the business’ Continuous Improvement success. This can include a Certificate towards their credentials, from participation Certificates to Australian Recognised Qualifications and International Certification. Recognising, rewarding and celebrating your team’s achievements will put you in a position of sustaining Continuous Improvement – people need to feel valued if you expect them to follow your vision.
7. Leverage technology for Continuous Improvement
The full potential of Continuous Improvement will only be experienced in an organisation when you leverage the appropriate Technology. Technology systems allow improvement projects to be significantly enhanced at both micro and macro levels, impacting upon your bottom line. IoT devices allow flexible monitoring and reporting of machine and operator performance. This enables quick diagnostic capability, based on real-time data on productivity, machine downtime, changeover, cycle times, defect counts, and Overall Equipment Effectiveness, allowing you to pin point strategic deployment of Continuous Improvement methodologies.