If you’ve decided to set your organization on the path of continuous improvement, congratulations! That decision will likely be one of many that will bring measurable benefits in terms of profitability, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement. We know that getting started with continuous improvement can feel somewhat overwhelming, so we thought we'd share how some of the most successful organizations have launched their culture of continuous improvement. Hopefully, you’ll see that it isn’t as challenging as you might think.
Commit and Communicate
Continuous improvement is not a project or a program. It is a new way of thinking and working. It is important that everyone in the organization understand what continuous improvement is, as well as its potential to transform the organization through widespread engagement. Employees tend to be skeptical of new business paradigms, so it is essential that leaders communicate and, more importantly, demonstrate their commitment to the approach. Because continuous improvement requires both top-down and bottom-up collaboration it is important to aim for buy-in from the entire team.
To be clear, continuous improvement is everyone’s job. However, enlisting the early help of a few key employees who tend to be influencers within the organization is a great way to gain momentum. These employees can be the first to suggest opportunities for improvement and show by example that the rewards of doing so outweigh any risk. They can become your improvement ambassadors and help spread the right mindset.
Develop a Common Language
Part of the appeal of business process methodologies such as Six Sigma and Lean is that they come with a set of terms that form a common language around improvement. Even if you are not using one of these methodologies, make sure to define some of the terms, and tools that will be part of your improvement approach. For example, you may want to introduce PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act), standard work, and/or value stream mapping. Cross functional collaboration will be easier if you take the time to make sure everyone has a good grasp of what you mean when talking about continuous improvement.
Provide a Supporting Structure
To make continuous improvement frictionless, get started with technology that supports your improvement efforts right off the bat by creating a repository for opportunities for improvement, managing workflow around improvement, reporting results, and recognizing achievements. Not only will this investment help you get the most out of all improvement efforts, but it will also reinforce leadership’s commitment to positive change.
Get Some Quick Wins
Begin by focusing on a few small improvements that can have a quick and noticeable impact, rather than swinging for the fences right off the bat and tackling a huge challenge. Early successes will give staff confidence in the improvement process. When people see success and recognition they will become more engaged in improvement and the pace of change will accelerate.
Embracing continuous improvement and getting started can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With a thoughtful approach and the right tools, you’ll be on your way in no time. Remember what the old proverb says, “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.”
Register for our upcoming webinar to learn more about how to get started with continuous improvement, and see how software helps drive a system-wide approach!
June 15 from 1-2 EDT
- Get actionable advice from lessons learned in Kettering Health Network's 5 year process improvement journey
- See how Kettering's system-wide approach to projects, training, and daily problem solving led to $2.6 million of financial impact last year
- Learn about KaiNexus, the continuous improvement software platform that spread continuous improvement by enabling change management and accountability within the system