We saved this post for a couple of weeks into the New Year to give everyone a chance to get their exercise/weight loss/financial planning resolutions out of the way. Hope it’s all going well - but 98.9% of all New Year’s resolutions fail by February.
Ha, just kidding, I just made that up. But it rings true doesn’t it?!?
Why is changing habits so hard?
Certainly, unrealistic expectations are part of the problem. (You’re not going to lose 57 pounds by Marcia’s wedding in March.) But another part of the problem is that people focus on the “what” far more than the “why” and “how.”
That’s why we are going to focus on exactly why these resolutions will help you achieve your process improvement goals and how you can do it. These are a few simple, achievable, and measurable steps you can take to make 2019 a breakthrough year for continuous improvement.
End the Blame Game
If the business model of, “Bob made a mistake. Fire Bob. Replace Bob,” worked, every business would be wildly successful. But that’s not reality. Most problems are process problems, not people problems. If “Bob” isn’t set up for success, going through 1,000 Bobs won’t make a difference. Instead, it makes sense to search for the root cause of problems and free your team from the fear of failure, which makes them less likely to participate in improvement and share ideas for innovation.
One tool to support you in this effort is called the 5 Whys. It is a basic technique for getting to the heart of a matter by asking “Why?” as often as it takes. (Often 5 is the magic number.) Instead of blaming Bob for his mistake you may find that the reason for it was a flaw in the process standard, lack of training, non-operational tools, or an unrealistic schedule. Once you uncover the why, you can start solving problems.
Recognize Engagement and Success
You can not reach your process improvement goals alone. It’s a team sport that requires input and engagement from the front line to the executive suite. It stands to reason that people will be more eager to participate if they are recognized for their efforts. But we know from talking with hundreds of business leaders that this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Everyone nods when we say it is essential, but too often other tasks take priority and recognition takes a back seat.
One way to overcome this challenge is to invest in process improvement software that has built-in success broadcasting capabilities. When ideas are submitted, or a problem is put to bed, managers have an easy way to let the team know how much their work is appreciated and to share that success with the entire organization. This is the surest way to spread and sustain improvement efforts.
Make Sure Your Process Improvement Goals are Aligned with True North
If you face a lot of friction in your efforts to achieve your process improvement goals, it could be that they are not aligned well with the overall corporate strategy, or your organizations “True North.” Improving is always better than not improving, but if your objectives are in lock step with the most critical priorities of senior leaders, you’ll unlock the secrete to more resources and support. If you are a senior leader, it is imperative that your breakthrough objectives cascade down through the organization and drive individual performance measurement.
Take a Walk Once a Week
No, we aren’t back to talking about exercise again. We’re talking about Gemba Walks, or the practice of going to the place where work gets done to show respect, ask questions, and potentially uncover opportunities for improvement.
Improvement software becomes the home for each potential change that is identified. It guides the process for those opportunities that have been selected for implementation.
Look for Ways to Incorporate Visual Management
When presented with information visually, people are significantly more likely to process and remember it than if the information is presented in other ways. Visual management is a powerful tool for continuous improvement. It makes it easier to engage staff, gives leaders insight into crucial information, and helps to ensure improvements are moving along as planned.
There are many ways to incorporate visual management into your process improvement efforts. Kanban boards, digital huddle boards, control charts, and other online tools can make it much easier for you to assess the progress of improvement projects and ensure that you are getting the impacts you expect.
These are just a few of the things that you can do to make this the year that you achieve all of your process improvement goals. Got any other ideas? If so, we’d love to hear about them in the comments.