If you’ve watched even a minute of Top Chef or Chopped, you know that delicious dishes have the perfect balance of the five elements of taste; savory, sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Chefs who leave one out or let one overpower the others are asked to pack their knives and go. Like great entrées, execution of the continuous improvement model works best when five essential elements are included.
What constitutes an improvement should not be in the eye of the beholder. Improvements should be undertaken to achieve specific, well defined and widely shared organizational goals.
When every employee knows exactly what the company wishes to achieve over both the short and long term, they become capable of making good decisions that advance the organization’s objectives.
Hoshin Kanri is an excellent technique for achieving this goal alignment.
The continuous improvement model requires that every employee become responsible for finding and acting on opportunities for improvement. In order for this to happen, leaders must communicate that improvement is as much (if not more) a bottom-up endeavor as a top-down one.
People who have not experienced this approach in the past may be waiting for management to tell them what and how to improve. Instead, they need to be encouraged and empowered to work for positive change.
While every employee should be engaged in improvement, it cannot be effectively accomplished in a hap-hazard manner. Improvement work needs to be organized, documented, and managed.
Software that provides a repository for data related to improvement activities and a method of notifying team members when action is required helps ensure that leaders can monitor and manage improvement efforts.
Transparency is essential to the continuous improvement model for a number of reasons. Cross-functional teams are successful when communication is clear and constant; improvement work should build on past successes and learn from failures; and broadcasting the impact of improvement leads to increased engagement.
Business expert and motivational guru, Zig Ziglar, said, “Research indicates that workers have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.” The continuous improvement model addresses all three. Recognition should be built-in to any framework that you use to manage improvement efforts.
Each of these ingredients is indispensable to the continuous improvement model. Ignoring any of them might just get your improvement program chopped. On the other hand, if you strike the right balance, the results will be delectable indeed.