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Set Expectations & Deliver Training on Improvement Processes

5 minutes, 4 seconds read

What you will learn:

  • The need to set clear expectations
  • Key training for implementing Kaizen
  • How to coach employees
  • Ways to recognize and reward ideas

At its heart, Kaizen is about people. It takes a committed leader and buy-in from frontline employees to make a continuous improvement program successful. But success also depends upon all parties’ clear understanding of improvement processes. It is up to the Kaizen leadership team to ensure that the entire organization understands the expected results and has the right tools to achieve these goals.

Setting expectations

You won’t get the results you want if you’re not clear with all Kaizen participants on your expectations. Consider the following three strategies to set and manage expectations.

1. Clearly articulate mission and purpose

In the early days of Airbnb, CEO Brian Chesky used to interview all employee candidates to ensure one clear objective: He wanted to hire people who truly believed in the company mission and who fit within the company culture. He took the hiring process very seriously because, as he mentioned in the Stanford course How to Start a Startup, Chesky knew that company culture needs to be designed.

Founders must design the company mission and purpose and communicate it in a very clear way. The goal isn’t to check this off as a requirement that needs to be filled to present to VCs or customers. It is because these words will become what the company fights for and what drives the company’s fate. Moreover, creating a Kaizen culture starts with setting the right expectations, which in turn starts with sending the right message to all the people involved. So it’s essential that the company mission is being communicated clearly.

2. Create a safe space to fail

As you set out to succeed with any plan, you need to be prepared to fail. An important part of creating a continuous improvement culture is establishing an environment where people are able to experiment with new ways of doing things. This experimentation will come with a lot of failures. Communicate to your colleagues that they have the right to test their improvement ideas (in a safe manner) without the fear of potential failure. Let them know that you see failure as part of the process, and that every unsuccessful attempt provides a level of learning that sometimes is not achievable without experiencing failure along the way.

3. Make it safe to provide feedback

A healthy environment is one where people can feel safe, where they are not prejudiced against because of their mistakes. But it is also an environment where people can receive honest and useful feedback that will drive them to make their work more effective. Encourage feedback among all levels of the organization to improve people’s engagement with their work and quality of the work being done. Just make sure that this communication happens in the right place, time and manner. After all, no one likes to work with rude people.

Training for Kaizen

Once you set expectations, you must ensure everyone involved in Kaizen has the tools they need to participate effectively. Your full workforce may not need to know the specifics of how to apply PDCA to a project, but they do need to understand their role in the continuous improvement process.

First, employees need to know what types of suggestions you want. It’s up to leadership to put together qualifications for suggestions. Consider an idea form to give employees guidelines on the level of information to provide.

Next, your workforce needs to understand the criteria by which ideas will be put into action. Make clear how the process works through consistent communication that covers, among other things, the process for proposing, testing and implementing new ideas.

How to be a coach and evaluate ideas

If you are in a position where you need to evaluate or coach improvement ideas, there are two potential pitfalls you may face: allowing through bad decisions and disengagement from your peers.

The most important consideration is that you want to avoid saying no to all the ideas that come your way. For those ideas that you truly believe don’t add value, consider asking the person suggesting the idea, “How could you prove or experiment that?” This prompt might encourage them to dig deeper toward an idea that could work.

In this capacity you also need to promote the creation of new ideas and experiments. People who think they have no good ideas to suggest might find they just need a prompt to start brainstorming. By asking questions like “what is the process that you hate the most?” or “what would you do different in your work?” you can get people to start thinking and generating fresh ideas that could be beneficial for improvement efforts.

Recognize and reward

As psychologist Abraham Maslow taught, recognition is an essential part of life. We may like different kinds of rewards, but we need recompense in order to motivate ourselves and to feel good.

The best rewards are those related to the people we love and memorable experiences, so whenever you are giving rewards try to involve the family and friends of the recognized person. Perhaps you can invite them to a gathering to celebrate. You might also try to reward with experiences; experiences are never outdated and can impart important lessons upon the person experiencing it. Some examples include art performances, movie tickets, trips or spa sessions.

Remember that the reward does not always have to have an economic expense associated. Sometimes the best rewards are just letting people know that you appreciate their work on a constant basis.

Next Steps

For More Information:

Creating a Kaizen Culture

 How to Get Ideas to Flow from Staff

15 Ways to Encourage Creative Idea Sharing from All Team Members


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