Continuous Improvement Never Ends
A few years ago I was talking with the CEO of a large US corporation about Lean management. I asked him about establishing a culture of continuous improvement in his business that employed over 25,000 people in eight locations around the world. His answer blew me away; he said “We completed that project last year.”
Since that meeting I have constantly asked myself, “Do business leaders really know what it means to be Lean?” There is great press today about using the Lean Startup model, and the “do more with less” aspect is fully understood. There is less understanding, however, about the enormous business benefits gained from fostering the talent and creativity of employees and empowering them to make continuous improvements. Continuous improvement can have an enormous positive impact on any business, but there must first be an established culture of respect and trust. Continuous improvement is a critical aspect of a Lean business that has no chance to survive and sustain unless it exists within a culture of respect for the ideas of all employees.
Empower your employees to make positive change through continuous improvement. Foster and promote creative thought - “how can we do this better?”, “how can we improve?”, “how do way stay ahead of the competition?”. If this culture of empowerment is created, it will in turn create a culture of improvement. New ideas will flow, innovations will materialize, and change will ensue.
The role of leadership should be to ensure that this heartbeat of creativity sustains by consistently supporting empowerment and continuous improvement through consistent words and actions.
Continuous improvement is not a project that was completed last year. It is the result of continuous and consistent leadership culture that promotes empowerment of every employee. The employees will create the improvement, leadership must create and sustain a culture where it will survive and grow. This is what it means to be Lean.