Getting Your Business Ready For Continuous Improvement

Getting Your Business Ready For Continuous Improvement

Review Success Stories from Other Organisations

It is always a good idea when getting your business ready for continuous improvement to research and share the success stories of others. Click here to get you going on many success stories we prepared when still known as Achieve Process Excellence.

Ready For Continuous Improvement Secret: Readiness Assessment

Not every business or organization is ready for continuous improvement no matter how they believe they will benefit from such a program.

Very often businesses are so busy trying to accomplish the objectives that they have several initiatives underway at any given time. On top of that, leaders of departments or divisions have their own ideas of what will work best for them and as a result, launch their own mini initiatives. This places a huge strain on the resources of the organization with divided focus diminishing the value of the sum.

In cases like this, it is inevitable that continuous improvement will not be given fair attention increasing the probability of poor results.

It is important to note that the purpose of an assessment is to ascertain the current culture of the organization and its acceptance to change. Several of the points listed below may not score high during the assessment, however, it is important to note the ability and willingness to adopt these elements. Some of these elements are similar to the benefits achieved by implementing Continuous Improvement. The following audit areas should be explored when getting your organisation ready for continuous improvement:

  • Ascertain the level of commitment from the leadership team to wanting to do things different and not simply offer lip service.
  • Interrogate the financial statements for clues on the pains experienced by the business and the magnitude thereof.
  • How much value is given to the voice of the customer and how much to the voice of the business? Is it in balance?
  • What information systems are used to enable the business? To what degree is the data held within systems credible? Can data be located and is it in a usable format?
  • What is the level of analytical skills held within the business?
  • Is a project management mentality present? How successfully? What is the general consensus on project management?
  • How process orientated in the business?
  • What is the level of problem solving skills held with in the business?
  • How are decisions made in the business – subjective or based on data? How willing is the business to adopting a more data orientated approach?
  • How is the relationships across departments, divisions and disciplines? Is their evidence of cross-functional collaboration or is the ‘silo’ mentality rife? Is the business team oriented?
  • Is the business focused predominantly on achieving the outcome or merely on the activities?

The audit serves three purposes. The first is to access the readiness of the business for Continuous Improvement. The second is to aid in developing an implementation plan and selection of the best Continuous Improvement methodology – Lean, DMAIC, DFSS etc (We’ll explore this point further down). The third, is used to diagnose areas that may require extra effort during implementation.

Ready For Continuous Improvement Secret: Strategic Intent

To ensure your business is ready for continuous improvement, and maximm results are achieved from your continuous improvement efforts it is imperative that it is aligned with the company’s strategy and objectives. It should be implemented as a premier initiative for the business to achieve its medium and long term strategies.

Companies that adopt a “let’s try it and see if it works” approach often achieve mixed results while those that commit show superior results.

When continuous improvement is implemented to aid the achievement of the strategy, it is given its due attention. Projects are correctly selected. Progress is reviewed at the highest level and as you know, what gets measured gets done.

Ready For Continuous Improvement Secret: Improvement Methodology Selection

Businesses need to guard against being oversold on Continuous Improvement and enthusiastically run in and implement a program with the hope that it will somehow succeed. Whilst the attitude is commendable, it is naive and will result in confusion.

Then a question that often springs up is which approach is better suited to my business? For example, an intense continuous improvement implementation usually includes some form of Lean Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, Total Quality Management, 8Ds, SCRUM etc. Often it starts off with Lean, thereafter Six Sigma is introduced.

Of late various methodologies have been combined under the banner Continuous Improvement. It is vital to select a methodology or hybrid methodology that will best for the organization’s culture and objectives. Lean and Six Sigma, when applied appropriately are very adaptive while proven.

Lean is better suited to businesses that have many “low hanging” opportunities, want to initiate work teams in the quality improvement culture, and is often used as a precursor to DMAIC. Lean’s key deliverable is a reduction of waste and ensuring a continuous flow.

Six Sigma (Continuous Improvement) is suited to businesses that are seeking to enhance performance through defect reduction. Companies that adopt Continuous Improvement may already have an established quality base and are seeking to take it to the next level. They use Continuous Improvement to help find the seemingly difficult to isolate causes of performance problems.

Ready For Continuous Improvement Secret: Open & Clear Communication

A key element of any change initiative is absolute clear communication of the purpose and benefits of the “new way”.

In order to mobilize the company’s energies and early buy-in, the leadership must have an internal communication plan in place, almost resembling that of a brand communication plan. The plan should at least address the 5 W’s and How and be presented in various media to all stakeholders.

Some of the elements that need to be communicated when the business leaders have decided that the business is ready for continuous improvement are:

  • How the leadership decided upon Continuous Improvement and how they intend to support it.
  • An overview of Continuous Improvement.
  • The benefits of Continuous Improvement and how it supports the achievement of the business strategy.
  • Implementation and training time lines.
  • The Continuous Improvement organogram.
  • The new metrics and tracking mechanism.
  • Expectations; and
  • The new organizational attitude/culture that is desired.

Continuous Improvement Success Secrets Number Two deals with Implementation Structure and Project Selection.

Click here to go back to the introductory article Implementing A Winning Continuous Improvement Program

Read the next article in this series Continuous Improvement Structure.

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