Steve Howard, chief sustainability officer at Ikea said, “You should measure things you care about. If you’re not measuring, you don’t care and you don’t know.” Ouch. (I like this guy, he’s direct.) I suspect that most of us have things that we profess to care about, but that we don’t measure; most likely because we don’t know exactly what to measure or how to do it.
We find that in many organizations, continuous improvement is one of those things. Organizations will often make the effort to measure the results of each individual improvement, but they have no good way to gauge the success of improvement as a whole. They become so focused on an individual tree that they forget that there’s an entire forest standing right in front of them. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are some continuous improvement metrics you can monitor to determine if a culture of improvement has taken hold.
Improvement starts with the identification of opportunities for positive change. Has your team collected more of them this year than last? Is the frequency with which opportunities are identified increasing or stagnant? Answering these questions will give you some insight into the health of your improvement culture. Drilling down and looking at opportunity identification by department will help you find out where improvement is thriving, and why.
When it comes to improvement, individual employees are where the rubber meets the road. Understanding which individuals are most engaged in improvement efforts helps managers recognize and reward them as well as to enlist their help in spreading the improvement mindset. This means measuring which people are submitting opportunities for improvement and working on improvement projects. It also opens up the potential to coach and mentor those who are not yet engaged.
It is important for employees and executives alike to understand the impact that improvement efforts have on the organization. Continuous improvement metrics should include results related to:
- Cost savings
- Customer satisfaction
Of course, knowing what to measure is only half the battle. Actually doing it requires technology designed to organize and support your improvement efforts. With the right tools in place, you can easily access the data that will reveal the current state of your improvement culture and help guide your efforts to make it even stronger.