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6 Pressing Questions Your Employees Have About Continuous Improvement

Posted by Maggie Millard

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Sep 13, 2017 6:35:00 AM

Closeup portrait young woman with glasses scratching head, thinking daydreaming deeply about something, looking up, isolated white background. Human facial expression emotions, feelings, body language.jpegWe’ve written quite a bit on this blog about the questions that business leaders and managers ask us about continuous improvement (CI), Lean management, improvement technology, and more.

Today, we thought it would be useful to focus on the questions that your employees almost certainly have, especially if a structured approach to improvement is new for your company. Front line employees are often reluctant to ask questions of management, but you can bet they ask each other.

In order to make sure that folks have accurate and helpful information, it pays to answer these questions - even if they are never openly asked.

1- Does Continuous Improvement Mean Cutting Jobs?

This may seem like a bit of a leap, but believe us, it is a very common fear. Businesses often look for innocuous terms to describe bad news. (Remember, rightsizing?) Make it clear that continuous improvement is about eliminating waste, not people. Your goal is to get the most out of every resource, not to need fewer resources.

2 - Why Do We Need Structured Improvement? Haven’t We Always Tried to Improve?

Some people feel offended when a continuous improvement initiative is introduced. They might believe that management is saying that nothing positive has been happening in the company. Make it clear that structured improvement is a way to speed up and amplify the good work that people are already doing. It isn’t a sign that no one is trying, but rather an indication that the will is there and management is committed to harnessing it.

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3 - Is This Another Business Management Fad?

We’re not going to lie, we’ve seen eyes roll at the suggestion that management was trying a new approach. Lots of people have seen leadership methodologies come and go. We think a little history is helpful here. People should know that CI has a long an enduring place in business management and that it takes a variety of forms, but all rest on the idea that processes and outputs can always be better and that everyone in the company is responsible for improvement. It is also helpful to signal that management is committed to the approach. Investing in technology and training for CI is one way to demonstrate that leaders are in for the long haul.

4 - Will I Be Micromanaged?

When they hear "Continuous improvement," many people think, “Great, now someone is going to come in and tell me how to do my job.” You want to make it clear that exactly the opposite is true. Most of the opportunities for improvement that will be implemented will be suggestions from front line employees. CI is a way for employees to tell management what they need to perform better, produce better products, and be more efficient. It should always build trust, not damage it.

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5 - How Will I Know What to Do?

We mentioned training and technology a little bit earlier, but here is where it is really essential. People are slow to embrace new things if they don’t feel like they will be given the information and tools they need to be proficient. Leaders should never assume that people know how to recognize and report waste, map processes, or create Standard Work. Employees need formal instruction and a platform for reporting ideas, tracking progress, and measuring results.

6 - What’s in It for Me?

We’ve all heard of FAQs, but this one is an FUQ. It’s a Frequently Unasked Question, for sure, but it’s a question nonetheless. The answer might be somewhat different in every organization, but for most, employees benefit from continuous improvement in the following ways:

  • More input into processes and procedures
  • Clearer expectations
  • Recognition for ideas that have an impact
  • Fewer emergencies, deviations, and errors to correct
  • A consistent and reliable supply of inputs such as supplies, data, or components
  • More efficiently arranged workspaces
  • Happier internal and external customers
  • Benefits of better financial performance (Stock programs, raises, more resources, etc.)
  • More opportunities to demonstrate leadership skills


Answering these questions, even if they are never asked, will help make sure that employees have accurate information about your continuous improvement programs. We’ve also found that doing so starts a dialog and encourages people to ask additional questions of their own. Keep in mind that continuous improvement is something that you are doing with your employees, not to them. That means their perception of CI is essential to success. It makes sense to be as open and thoughtful as possible, addressing likely concerns and highlighting personal benefits right from the start. 

Topics: Change Management, Employee Engagement, Spread Continuous Improvement

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