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Why We Care So Much About Continuous Process Improvement

Posted by Maggie Millard

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Aug 24, 2017 11:18:18 AM

Big Journeys Begin With Small Steps sign on desert road.jpegIf you’ve visited this blog with any frequency, you may have noticed that we are very passionate about the work we do. Don’t get me wrong, it is work and we're in business to sell software, but way beyond that, we really believe in the work that our solution supports. Recently, a friend noticed that I was sharing articles about continuous process improvement on my personal Twitter feed and LinkedIn pages and she asked me why I was so into this stuff. That’s a good question so, Carol, this blog’s for you.

Every member of the KaiNexus team believes in the power of incremental improvement because:

It Starts from a Place of Optimism

The very fundamental premise of continuous process improvement is, “It can be better.”  That’s a pretty positive outlook from our point of view. Sure, problems will crop up and it often takes a lot of effort to replace the old way of doing things with something new, but if you believe in the power of positive change there isn’t much you can’t overcome.

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It is Empowering

When you invite people at every level of the organization to get involved in daily improvement and take control over the processes that they operate, something remarkable happens. People begin to feel a certain pride of ownership. They start to care more about their workspaces and the quality of their deliverables. They ask questions and learn to avoid making assumptions. Suddenly you see people engaging in what’s known as “discretionary effort.” That’s what happens when people go beyond what is expected of them and do something more voluntarily. That alone has the power to transform organizations.

It’s a Way of Life, Not an Event

I’ll start this section by saying that we are big fans of rapid improvement events and believe that they are an important technique that can deliver breakthrough results. That said, in general, continuous improvement isn’t a one-time thing. It is something that can and should happen every single day. No process can ever be considered completely improved. When one cycle of change is finished, that just means the next can begin. So, I guess, that’s part of the reason we are all-in, the improvement mindset is part of how we walk through the world on a daily basis.

It’s Educational

I’m always impressed by how thoughtful our customers become about continuous process improvement and how many different methods and tools they are willing to try. See, there is no one approach that is right for every process or for every type of problem that might come up. Sometimes a PDSA cycle is all it takes, but in other cases, A5, value stream mapping, process control charts, or a Kaizen event might be a better solution. What’s amazing is that when people start practicing continuous process improvement is that they get much better at choosing the right tool for the job. They become willing to experiment with different approaches and learn what works best under which circumstances. In short, practicing continuous process improvement makes people smarter. What’s not to love about that?

It Works

Perhaps this is all the reason one needs to get passionate about improvement. Over the years we have seen clients make small changes that result in huge cost savings that pay off for years. We’ve seen customer satisfaction improve after taking a nose dive. Customers share stories of success regarding quality, safety, employee satisfaction, revenue, time to market, and cross-functional collaboration.

We Can Prove It

When customers implement our solution, the average annual impact of each user is $13,000, so we know for certain that continuous process improvement efforts pay off.  But that’s another great thing about continuous improvement, with the right technology in place, the impact of each improvement can be measured and shared. Unlike some other business management techniques that are hard to quantify in terms that people can get excited about, continuous process improvement can be measured against key performance indicators so that you can always keep score. That makes us happy because it creates a snowball effect. Great results from improvement lead to more improvement. Boom!

So, I will admit to being a bit of a wonk for this stuff. And it might annoy my friends and family when I talk about implementing 5S in my kitchen, use Kanban cards around the house, or break out the 5 Whys at a picnic, but I just can’t help it. This is some pretty awesome stuff.

Topics: Daily Improvement, Improvement Culture

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