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6 Strategies to Get Employees to Commit to Continuous Improvement

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Commit to Continuous Improvement

Respect for people is at the basis of Kaizen. After all, a continuous improvement journey depends upon empowered people to drive change in the workplace. So what do you do if your employees resist the most basic changes that you’re looking to drive?

There are countless reasons that your employees may push back on a shift to Kaizen culture. From a fear of the unknown, to a fear of failure to mistrust of organizational leaders, the list goes on. Fortunately, there are just as many strategies change management leaders can employ to motivate all team members to embrace Kaizen.

Build stability to build trust

When you set clear goals and expectations, and an organized roadmap for achieving those goals, you make it easier for employees to embrace your vision. A continuous improvement journey provides specific tools to help employees solve problems. However, your change leaders also must clearly establish what happens once employees provide suggestions or input. If you’re not clear in your vision, your giving employees every reason not to embrace it.

A funny thing begins to happen once you have a structure in place for driving improvements forward: you generate greater stability in the organization. That’s because Kaizen presents employees with a new way of approaching problems. It drives a mindset that sees problems not as failures, but opportunities to become better. And as challenges arise in the future, your people trust that there will be a simple solution because they have become committed to looking for improvements and solutions on a daily basis.

Create a safe space to fail

A critical part of creating a continuous improvement culture is encouraging people to experiment with new ways of doing things. Experimentation will come with failures. It’s important that employees understand that the lessons learned from these failures are as valuable as the successes. Remind them that failure is part of the process, and not something to be feared.

Follow-through on people’s ideas

As employees see leadership acting on their ideas, it can create a buzz of excitement about the change process. It also builds trust in leadership and shows a commitment to the new Kaizen culture. Make sure that the processes you have in place for acting upon ideas are clearly understood.

Moreover, make sure you follow-up after ideas are implemented. It’s easy to be caught up in the excitement of a Kaizen event, only to let the improvements achieved peter out over time. Keep a presence in the gemba so that employees can see you’re committed to supporting their ideas a part of the company culture.

Communicate consistently and predictably

If you truly want to drive a continuous improvement culture, then you need to keep that goal front and center in messaging to employees. Consistently communicate about improvement goals, whether that’s through emails, during meetings or through training opportunities. But don’t let the communication stop there. Publicly share the results of Kaizen projects as well. Celebrate the successes and discuss lessons learned from failures. Let employees see what they’re working toward to encourage them to keep driving improvement forward.

Make it safe to provide feedback

Of course, you don’t want your communication stay one-sided. It’s important that employees feel safe to provide honest and useful feedback. When you encourage feedback at all levels of the organization, you can help improve people’s engagement with their work and quality of the work being done.

Of course, it helps to establish guidelines to for this communication so that it happens in the right place, time and manner. After all, no one likes to work with rude people.

Respect that people react differently to change

Again, Kaizen is all about respect. When you respect people as individuals with different learning styles and reactions to change, you will get farther in your goals. Remember the Toyota formula: “Go see, ask why, show respect.” If you’re not getting anywhere on your own, reach out to your workforce. Make their resistance to change the first problem to solve on your continuous improvement journey.  


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