Continuous improvement allows you to improve faster than your competition
Your customers, the competition and the market, are changing. All products will have more features, look better or cost less tomorrow than they do today. Continually evolving markets affect all industries; sooner or later the world will move on. Any product or service will eventually become obsolete if it is not refined to keep up with these ever-changing market demands. Staying still is just not an option.
The better we are at improving, the more competitive our business will become.
Continuous improvement (CI) allows organizations to evolve
If we can improve faster than our competitors then we will be able to secure more of the market for ourselves in the future. This is why CI is such a big deal. A good CI culture will deliver rapid evolution into any business. Working hard just isn't enough, we also need to think about how we can do things better.
There are four basic requirements needed to develop a flourishing continuous improvement culture
Getting better is retentively easy, its just a question of leadership and strategy. The following management behaviors are vital to achieving a robust CI culture in your business:
Behavior 1 — Tell your employees that the company wants them to improve what they do
This is the simplest and the most important thing to do. Communicate to your organization that you want to continually improve. State this intention through company strategy reviews, company newsletters, and team briefings. This is the most effective way to get the CI culture moving. This simple step can be overlooked by some organizations in favor of investing in Six Sigma, Lean training, and fancy consultants.
To get the improvement culture going, just ask.
Behavior 2 — Start a Continuous Improvement Process (CIP) register
CI culture is all about driving forward improvement change, and lots of it. To enable this to happen effectively there needs to be a process to capture, distribute and track opportunities for improvement within the business. A Continuous Improvement Process (CIP) can be developed to provide this function.
An excellent example of an off-the-shelf CI software is CAPA Manager. This system allows all employees to upload opportunities for improvement (or tasks) to a central improvement register. These tasks are then allocated to the relevant stakeholders in the business. Improvement tasks are then tracked through to completion by the system.
Behaviour 3 — Deploying a Continuous improvement culture is easy when the staff are empowered to improve
To help us improve faster than the competition we should aim to empower the entire workforce to make improvement directly. This has the advantage of boosting our improvement capacity, it also allows for far more hidden improvement opportunities to be realized.
Some organizations may tend to channel improvement activity through dedicated improvement teams or individuals. This approach can be limited due to the lack of improvement capacity. All staff can be encouraged to engage in improvement activity, maximizing the volume of change and improvement that can be achieved.
To achieve total staff empowerment a robust but straightforward change process should be introduced that allows all staff to make changes. The focus should be on allowing all employees to make controlled changes by following a well-designed change process.
Off-the-shelf CAPA software can help empower all staff to make improvements.
Behavior 4 — Measure, report and celebrate improvement activity
Improvement culture can be measured by the number of improvements identified and actioned by the organization. It's good practice to routinely report on CI progress back to the workforce, this can underpin the organization's commitment to continual improvement activity.
Using a purpose made CIP like the CAPA Manager CI software will automate these measures and produce improvement KPIs on demand. Great for customers and shareholders alike!
Successful organizations rely on strong CI activity
There are apparent commercial advantages that can be gained from a healthy and robust CI culture. However, it should also be pointed out that an empowered workforce will tend to be more productive due to the direct input from the employees into the business's success. Staff morale can be significantly improved by encouraging employee involvement. Managed this employee responsibility correctly can further enhance an organization's responsiveness and pace of change. CI organizations are excellent places to be, where employees are more likely to use their full potential.
When a CI culture has been established, consider deploying more advanced improvement tools
Many tools and techniques can be used to help boost your teams improvement capacity. Usually, these require some training to be effective. But it should be pointed out that specialized tools are not necessarily needed to enable a successful improvement culture:
Kaizen CI teams
Kaizen or Continuous Improvement Teams can be encouraged to develop to tackle specific improvement opportunities. Groups can be trained to be more effective, but teams can also evolve organically without specific training.
This training will help your workforce to become faster and reduce costs. Lean training allows staff to identify and minimize wasted effort. Usually deployed en masse within an organization or group, this is the perfect training to support an established CI culture.
This is a super-specialized toolset based on the DMAIC work flow. Six Sigma is best used to improve the standard of products and services by reducing output variation. Six Sigma should only be deployed following proper Lean and 5S deployment.
Continuous improvement (CI) summary
A continuous improvement process can be deployed into any organization relatively quickly and with little cost. Good management and leadership is the key to success. By following the four simple steps above an improvement culture can flourish in your business.