The generation now entering the workforce will never use a payphone, never write a check, never get off the couch to turn the channel, and never look up movie times in the newspaper. Things that all seemed normal and permanent to those of us over 40 are simply not things anymore. The internet age is upon us, and we can make calls from anywhere, send money with a click, watch shows on-demand, and buy movie tickets with an app. Change isn’t always easy, but new ways of doing things make us more efficient, better connected, and more flexible.
This is true for organizations as well. Modern technology continues to advance and offer organizations more efficient, scalable, and effective ways of doing things. Core business functions still exist. The sales, HR, manufacturing, accounting, and logistics functions continue to be essential, but now they are assisted with software and other technology that aids performance. Likewise, a new digital continuous improvement approach has emerged and been embraced by successful organizations in every sector.
What is Digital Continuous Improvement?
Digital continuous improvement is a structured, organization-wide, every-day approach to achieving long-term goals aided by software designed for the purpose. Everyone in the organization is expected to contribute, and small wins are celebrated.
What Are the Benefits of Digital Continuous Improvement?
Visual Management: If you are using analog tools for improvement work, it is impossible to get a picture of what is happening across the organization. By making the information digital and accessible, leaders can easily see which projects are underway, who is engaged in improvement, and what areas of the organization are impacted. Even individual contributors get a dashboard that shows their activities, assignments, and goals all in one place.
Productive Cross-functional Collaboration: Working with people in multiple departments to solve problems can be a challenge if there isn’t a central platform for coordinating efforts. When everyone is working with a single source of the truth, communication is improved, and work moves along faster.
Organizational Alignment: The most prominent challenge organizations without digital continuous improvement face is keeping improvement efforts aligned with the strategic priorities. Employees may not understand the priorities and take on projects that, while helpful, don’t impact the most critical objectives. Digitization solves this by allowing leaders to cascade goals down to the individual level.
Impact Reporting: Calculating the financial and non-financial impact of improvements is essential for executive and employee engagement. When you can put a metric in place that proves an improvement was beneficial, people are more willing to commit to the work, and the kaizen mindset is more likely to spread. Not only can the immediate impact in terms of measures like cost savings, safety incidents, customer satisfaction, time to market, and product quality be measured, but so can the long-term impact.
Improvement Broadcasting: In addition to sharing the impact of improvement work, recognizing the people who contribute to positive change is essential if you want more people to engage. With a paper system, this step is often neglected. The best digital improvement systems have improvement broadcasting built-in. Managers can quickly let everyone know when someone on their team has gone the extra mile.
Which CI Techniques are Supported by Digital Continuous Improvement Software?
Standard Work: The documented current best practice for performing any process or task is called Standard Work. It forms the baseline for all improvement projects. The software supports both the creation and execution of Standard Work. Crafting the Standard is tracked as an improvement project involving all stakeholders, especially process operators. It then becomes the home for the current Standard. When an opportunity to improve the Standard is recognized, a new cycle begins.
Huddle Meetings: Daily huddle meetings are a widespread practice in organizations dedicated to CI. Teams assemble around a board that displays the status of improvement projects to discuss ongoing work and new challenges. Improvement software offers a digital version of the huddle board, making it easy for people to participate even if they aren’t in the room. In addition, it creates a record of the work and helps leadership stay informed about the improvement work of all the teams they oversee.
DMAIC and PDSA: DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) and PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Adjust) are different versions of the cycle for continuous improvement. Each ensures thoughtful, controlled, and effective change. Digital improvement management software is used to document each step of either cycle, notify participants when action is needed, and calculate the impact of the improvement.
Gemba Walks: During a Gemba walk, a supervisor, manager, or executive leader visits the place where work is done to observe, show respect, and explore opportunities for improvement. The software creates a digital home for any opportunities to be considered for implementation. They are recorded, evaluated, and executed. All documentation, images, and process data gathered during the walk are available for quick access when the improvement work begins.
Kanban: Kanban is a visual management tool used to help visualize workflow, find interruptions, and make any backlogs easy to spot. Digital Kanban allows for widespread participation and ensures that the right people are proactively alerted when the workflow is blocked or uneven.
Hoshin Kanri: Hoshin Kanri is a strategy deployment technique that involves identifying a few breakthrough objectives that can be achieved in 3-5 years. The approach is an effective way to reach long-term goals while practicing daily operational management. Software supports Hoshin planning by aligning each person’s goals with the organization’s strategy in the tool that they use improvement work every day.
Rapid Improvement Events: Rapid improvement events, also called Kaizen events, are a technique for getting fast results by focusing intensely on a problem for a short period. Improvement software gives organizations a unified platform for collecting information, alerting team members about important milestones and tracking progress as it happens.
Moving from analog to digital continuous improvement represents a giant leap forward for many organizations. If you are ready to make it happen, we are here to support you in every way.