We like to keep things positive in this blog, but once in a while, it makes sense to explore the roadblocks that organizations can face when trying to achieve continuous improvement. Recently, we’ve spoken to a few leaders who are disappointed with the results of their organization’s CI efforts. A quick triage of their continuous improvement goals usually uncovers one or more of these common mistakes.
There are no goals
It’s stunningly common that when we ask about continuous improvement goals, there are no defined objectives, or they aren’t written down anywhere. Often, we hear about goals related to safety, productivity, or quality, but there aren’t any goals designed to create the environment where all of those measures are likely to get better.
The organizations that get the most out of continuous improvement set SMART goals for CI. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. For example, a SMART goal for CI might be to increase the number of opportunities for improvement captured by 10% each month over the course of the next six months.
There is no way to measure progress
Let’s say you’ve decided to go with our sample goal of increasing the number of opportunities month over month. How will you know if the goal has been achieved? Spreadsheets, physical huddle boards, and other disunified tracking mechanisms make it difficult to get a sense of how the organization as a whole is progressing.
Improvement management software makes it possible to efficiently manage toward your goals and get insight into how the entire organization is doing. Dashboards contain relevant key performance indicators for each person based on their role. The most advanced solutions have the ability to broadcast to monitors located in the workspace so that everyone has immediate visibility. Because one solution can be used to manage every department and tailored to the needs of each user, it is easy to gain instant insight.
The goals don’t include critical metrics
There are three fundamental aspects of continuous improvement that should be included in the goals: activity, engagement, and impact.
Activity goals might involve:
- The number of improvements submitted vs. the number completed.
Theaverage cycle time of an improvement
- The improvement workload of each person
Engagement objectives to consider:
- The percentage of employees who are actively engaged in improvement
- The number of improvements per person
- The distribution of improvements across departments
- The financial result of completed improvements
- Quality and safety metrics
- Customer and staff satisfaction
Continuous Improvement is not a daily practice
When CI progress is disappointing, we often find that it is not top of mind for employees and leaders. While rapid improvement events can be useful, continuous improvement must be a daily practice to thrive.
There are a few ways to achieve this. Daily huddle meetings (which don’t have to be in person if you are using improvement software), can create a space in the day to focus on improvement initiatives. Broadcasting dashboards can help here as well.
There is a lack of active leadership
It is the critical mission of leaders to create and sustain a culture of continuous improvement. This doesn’t happen by mentioning it once or twice in a meeting. It requires constant engagement and intention. The other thing often necessary investment in the areas of technology, training, and human resources.
Leaders also have the responsibility to track where the organization is related to its continuous improvement goals and to make course corrections or remove obstacles when progress stalls. Celebrating success is also essential for increasing enthusiasm.
Individuals lack connection to the goals
Once the corporate goals for continuous improvement are developed, they should be cascaded throughout the organization to the department, team, and individual level. Employee performance evaluations should include these CI goals, and they should be a regular topic of discussion during employee coaching sessions.
In a healthy improvement culture, people are recognized for their contributions to innovation. They also understand how their core function and improvement efforts help propel the organization toward its overall goals, or what we call True North.
As the old saying goes, a goal without a plan is a wish. As you put together your plan for daily positive change, be sure to avoid these missteps.