16/08/16, Remarkable

Continuous Improvement: 14 Tips to Success

strategy, planning

Speaking to one of our Specialists at Investors in People recently, he remarked that all too often he see’s examples of good organisations who will "plan-DO-review", with great emphasis being placed upon the “do” and very little placed upon either the “plan” or “review”.

We then went on to discuss how the “review” part of any project is always important and can be critical to its success. Furthermore, even after the initial project is complete, it still remains imperative to continue to review changes implemented.

Within the review part of an Investors in People assessment, our Specialists will hold a ‘Continuous Improvement’ meeting with our clients around a month after to gauge how they have taken forward the development areas recommended during the review.

Continuous improvement is perhaps best known through the Japanese system of “kaizen”. Kaizen, literally meaning “good change” was introduced in the 1970’s in order to combat Japan’s glaring problems with inefficiency and waste.

Given its importance, here are our top tips to successfully carrying out a programme for continuous improvement; cutting out waste, streamlining process, and reducing inefficiencies.

1. Recognise the problem
What is it that you want to accomplish? Recognise what you want to stop doing and what you want to start doing and you’re a long way to solving the problem.

2. Document what’s important
This can be particularly important to start ups who may be less prone to writing things down, but it is of equal significance to larger company's also.

3. Establish an enduring culture
A leadership team who embrace change and are adaptable is critical. Similarly having a team who are resilient can also pay dividends. It's also important to gauge the impact of any improvement work on the overall culture of the organisation.

4. Customise how and where CI is applied in the organisation
Question before any implementation whether it is really required, and decide upon where it is most needed.

5. Question whether processes should be improved, eliminated, or disrupted
Again, tailor the solution to give the best fit. While some processes can be improved upon, some may need to be removed altogether.

6. Get feedback from all concerned
Be open to suggestions and take on-board feedback that has been given. Also remove blame from the equation, and allow for an open discussion.

7. There's room for big changes also
Although kaizen is about incremental change, it does not rule out the need for larger change if it is required.

8. Educate the workplace
Nominate a 'change agent' or a specific kaizen team to drive forward change within the organisation.

9. Share as much as you can
Shared information will help to stop silos emerging and can help to manage the ‘collective expectation’. Furthermore, regular communications and clear messaging explains the benefits to the wider team and will be widely welcomed.

10 Measure performance
Performance management is still important, and scorecards can help in this respect.

11. Have core values in place
Core values are vitally important at any time, but as they drive behaviours, it will ensure that ideas are not corrupted.

12. Identify changing requirements
Needs will change over time, and it is good to remember that this should be a set of fluid actions that can be changed or altered where required.

13. Devolve responsibility
Those on the shop floor are vital in that they will be able to spot imperfections and inefficiency. Don't just involve them in discussion, but make them experts and give them responsibility.

14. Start with small goals
Keep it manageable. Show progress and move up to bigger chunks only when people are ready for it.

So here we have 14 tips. Is there any more we could have added though? Do you feel continuous improvement is important within your organisation? Have you experience of kaizen within your company? We'd love to know your thoughts!

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