These days lots of the things that we used to do in the “real world” have moved to the internet. In many cases the electronic solution simply recreates the old way of doing things online. Ordering pizza is a good example. You can now order a pizza online. That’s pretty cool, and it’s slightly less hassle than calling it in. However, the people on the other end of the process still must roll out the dough, add the ingredients, cook the thing and transport it over to your house. If you’ve ordered one in the last few years, you probably agree that online ordering did not improve the quality of your pizza.
In the same way, one shouldn’t expect that moving from a physical suggestion box hanging on a wall (usually sad and forgotten) to one that lives in “the cloud” will result in a better continuous improvement program or better business results. Sure, it makes step one of the process arguably more convenient, but what happens next? Instead of an electronic suggestion box, which will likely be only marginally more effective than the physical one (if even that), organizations that are committed to continuous improvement should opt for a solution that is designed to support positive change every step of the way.
Shine a Light
Every time I see a suggestion box in a place of business I wonder when it was last opened. If there was ever a one directional method of communicating, the suggestion box is it. Ideas go in, but no one knows if they ever make it out. The whole paradigm is a little strange. Suggestion boxes are usually wood or metal and they’re often locked. I guess we can’t have one employee seeing what another suggested, can we? Actually, we can. Once you move away from the suggestion box mentality (either online or off) you realize that transparency is important for improvement. One idea can build on the next and people from various departments or teams who have something to add can become engaged in opportunities for improvement. In addition, continuous improvement software opens up a communication loop, keeping employees informed about how their suggestions are received.
While an electronic suggestion box may help gather ideas for making the company better (aka – take the order) it does nothing to ensure that ideas are evaluated, implemented and measured. The best improvement software, on the other hand, comes with work flow capabilities that help ensure progress is made. Managers are alerted when new opportunities for improvement are received. Assignments can be communicated and all participants in a particular improvement are notified when action is required. Suggestions are painlessly transformed into real improvements.
Start the Presses
A few prospects have asked us, “What about employees who want to make anonymous suggestions?” We see this as a culture problem, not a technology one. Organizations that put high value on improvement should be full of people who are proud to submit and work on opportunities for improvement. In fact, improvement broadcasting and employee recognition are the keys to increased engagement and improvement momentum.
An electronic suggestion box may allow you to collect ideas, but it does nothing to measure the impact of those that are implemented. Continuous improvement software goes far beyond idea collection and allows for tracking the costs vs. the impact of improvement efforts. This gives leaders a way to justify their investment in improvement initiatives and really understand how this work impacts business priorities.
Leaders can accelerate the pace of improvement by taking changes that work well for one process or department and applying them to similar needs in other parts of the organization. An electronic suggestion box is no help in this regard, but software designed to support all aspects of improvement captures tribal knowledge about both successful and unsuccessful improvement attempts.
Often, the people in your organization with the ideas and insights to suggest how to improve are the same ones who work with your biggest challenges and opportunities every day. Continuous improvement technology gives them the chance to contribute to your overall success in ways that the suggestion box, digital or not, never could.