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The "Pull" Approach to Continuous Improvement at BSA LifeStructures

Posted by Maggie Millard

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Jun 15, 2015 7:48:00 AM

bsa_logo_plainBSA LifeStructures, an architecture and engineering firm that “designs facilities that support, enhance and inspire healing, learning and discovery,” is a recent addition to the KaiNexus family. They’re a great example of a firm that utilizes technology to unify a dispersed team for continuous improvement, and we’ve been really impressed with how their culture of continuous improvement is shifting in their first couple months of KaiNexus use.

BSA LifeStructures has offices in Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Raleigh, and St. Louis. This is awesome because it means there’s a lot of diversity within the company - but having so many offices comes with a unique set of complications, too. For example, there’s this guy, Dave, a Healthcare Architect who tries to make sure there’s standard work across all locations. The trouble is that seven groups working on similar processes naturally come up with seven different ways of doing - and improving - things. In a recent interview, Jake Snyder (a Healthcare Systems Engineer) concisely described the problem as “There were a lot of small pockets of improvement, but we didn’t do a very good job of sharing and spreading that knowledge.”

Ultimately, one of the reasons BSA LifeStructures decided to partner with KaiNexus was to standardize the way all locations do and improve their work. They wanted to empower their employees to make daily continuous improvements, and at the same time ensure that those improvements have a widespread, sustained impact that will benefit the company across all locations. They’ve come a long way toward achieving those goals in the past two months, using KaiNexus’ continuous improvement software.

How has continuous improvement software helped?

  1. Collaboration

    With KaiNexus, BSA LifeStructures is able to create cross functional, virtual teams that utilize their diverse perspectives to solve problems with efficiency, agility, and creativity. 

  2. Sharing

    The firm shares improvement ideas throughout the organization using KaiNexus, which enables them to achieve a higher standard of service than any individual location could provide.

  3. Standardization

    Process variation is being steadily eliminated at BSA LifeStructures, as employees work together to understand how things are done across the organization, identify the best practice, and standardize its implementation. 

  4. Empowerment

    Employees throughout the firm are being empowered to make a difference in their organization, regardless of seniority or position. This is a very powerful message in a culture of continuous improvement. High five, BSA LifeStructures. 

  5. Education

    In our interview, Jake brought up a point that I actually don’t hear that often, but wish that I did. He talked about how BSA LifeStructures is using KaiNexus to educate staff about why things are the way they are. So many organizations mandate change as a result of continuous improvement efforts, without taking the time to validate the change to employees. The firm’s approach - teaching the why, not just the what - is what makes continuous improvement something you do WITH employees, not TO employees.

How do they spread continuous improvement?

Once I heard about the changes rippling through the firm, I asked Jake and his colleague Diane Kern, Communications Coordinator, how their staff were responding to the KaiNexus implementation. Really what I wanted to know was whether or not they were having to twist people’s arms to get them to participate - and I loved the honesty of their answer.

At BSA LifeStructures, participating in continuous improvement - and KaiNexus - is mandatory only for mid-level managers. This is because these leaders are responsible for driving the spread of continuous improvement. The firm coaches them in how to engage employees and enact culture change. As for training on the software, Jake said “The software is pretty intuitive, most people have just figured it out.”

The staff, on the other hand, are encouraged to participate, but not required to. The firm is approaching the spread of continuous improvement with “pull” rather than a “push” philosophy; they want people to be drawn into it voluntarily as they see how it improves both their jobs and their company. Jake says that this method works because once people get in and start using KaiNexus, they see the benefits. No matter how small the idea is, people are empowered to submit it and implement a change. Having a single place to go for information, collaboration, and solutions to common problems is also proving to be valuable in gaining staff buy-in.

And what’s cool is that they’re successful in that “pull” approach. They’ve had several people “pop up out of the woodwork” that the team leading the continuous improvement effort didn’t even realize were interested in kaizen. Their President, COO, and Chairman are on board with using KaiNexus, which helps. But really, engaging the entire organization in KaiNexus hinges on a culture change. Right now, there are still some people in the organization who are afraid that, by speaking up and pointing out errors, they’re going to get in trouble. That attitude is pretty common in developing cultures of continuous improvement. I asked Jake what the company’s plan for eradicating that attitude are, and he very aptly said that culture change is “Just a matter of doing it.” They ask for ideas for improvement all the time, and they rigorously ensure that no one is punished for identifying errors. As time goes on and people see that the focus is on improving, not blaming or shaming, that culture shift will follow.

I’m sure we’ll be writing more about the awesome work BSA LifeStructures is doing. Stay tuned and subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss out!

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Topics: Customer Testimonials, Collaboration

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