It's that time of year when everyone seems to make new resolutions. It's a good idea to make a resolution for change any time that you notice a gap that needs to be addressed. Since it's January, let's talk about what you can do to change your behavior so you can be better in 2019!
Consider these seven resolutions for successful continuous improvement (CI) this year.
- I resolve . . . to accept responsibility for my own CI development and to help others around me do the same.
Take time to examine your attitude about making improvements. Do you recognize that you must take responsibility for your own journey, or are you one of those who thinks that "stuff just happens to me?" You have a lot of control over what happens to you. Additionally, your learning often will help others learn. It is your obligation to help the organization learn faster than the competition.
- I resolve . . . to take time for CI every day.
Have you ever thought about how much time it takes to improve? Honestly, it often can take quite a bit of time to maintain a current process AND review the work to understand the common recurring problems that must be addressed. A lot of people feel burdened by that “extra” step at the end. But, once you recognize that these tasks are part of the overall job and not just "CI add-ons," you'll find that you will make the time to improve. This year, try to shift your focus from firefighting, workarounds, and heroic efforts - focusing instead on how to improve the standard process to make it more efficient every time.
- I resolve . . . to make CI a team sport.
Even if you work alone, as many of us do today, CI requires the engagement and buy-in from a team of people to make lasting improvements.
Think about the people who originally designed your work, or consider your customers. Do they understand your pain and problems? Probably not. What can you do to help them gain greater understanding? What about others who do the same type of work and also work independently?
Consider finding ways to share the ways you’ve found to improve your work, and encourage others to do the same. Applying discipline to this process of improving and sharing - make sure everyone participates, on a consistent basis - will improve the work of the entire team. When you collaborate around your improvement work, you’ll find that often, 1 + 1 > 2.
- I resolve . . . to identify and prioritize problems, waste, and obstacles that I encounter.
Being able to identify a problem, waste or an obstacle is not easy. This year, work on training your mind to recognize barriers that you’ve developed workarounds for in the past. Look for inefficiencies that slow you down, and challenge yourself to get creative about how to improve your work. Take the time to really identify problems - AND to work to improve them. We can’t improve everything at once but we can take steady, simple steps to make things better.
- I resolve . . . to adapt to changes in technology, training, and techniques to stay relevant.
You may have done your job for many years without any major problems. But remember - your past success isn't necessarily an indicator of future success; situations change, times change, and YOU change.
What new tools and processes are available to help you do your job better?
By being willing to consider new ideas and testing appropriate changes, you may be able to virtually eliminate errors and defects in your own work. You may even delight a customer!
- I resolve . . . to get involved in making systemic cross-functional improvements.
One of the hallmarks of a culture of continuous improvement is employee involvement. You know your job better than anyone else, and so do your colleagues. A fundamental part of a Lean culture is that the people who DO the work are the best suited to IMPROVE the work.
What are you doing to share this information with others? How do you empower others to share their own ideas?
You can get involved by....documenting current practices, capturing the time it takes to do the work, and talking with your process partners about needs and requirements.
- I resolve . . . to be a CI coach and champion.
Think about anyone you know who is a true champion for workplace improvements. What are the qualities this person exhibits? A champion is one who follows the standard and improves the standard to ensure the successful outcome of the goal. If you focus on the goal in your workplace and take incremental experimental steps toward that goal, you are a CI champion. You can make a real difference no matter what your role is in the organization.
Continuous Improvement is a never-ending journey. While we can set numeric goals and track statistics, we never "arrive” at perfection. Our CI goal starts over every day, every job for everyone. You have what it takes to make a difference in yourself, your family, community, and your co-workers.
What do you resolve to do in 2019 to be better and to ensure that globally we have everybody, every day making improvements?
This article was written by Mike Wiersma, the Global CI Leader and Coach for the Legal Team at Whirlpool Corporation, as well as the Vice Chair of the Michigan Lean Consortium.
Mike has over 14 years of experience in leading cultural transformations in both manufacturing and service organizations across the globe. With a proven track record in engineering, operations management and continuous improvement, Mike drives results with practical hands-on experience and effective leadership coaching. He's passionate about helping people and organizations build systems and structure that achieve best in class performance. Mike is married with 4 girls. He enjoys beaches, golf, travel and family time!
To connect with Mike, you can reach him on LinkedIn or leave a comment below.