How to Structure a Continuous Improvement Program
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Structuring a Continuous Improvement Program
What you will learn:
- The need for clear goals
- How to establish a transparent suggestion pipeline
- The importance of corporate culture
- The value of teaching continuous improvement tools
To develop successful continuous improvement and employee suggestion programs, you need to first define the program structure. Organizations that fail in establishing an improvement program often do so because they lack elements of structure that ensure ideas are heard and acted upon consistently. By establishing a structure for encouraging and responding to ideas, you can ensure that your continuous improvement program becomes a part of the corporate culture.
Establish clear goals
To encourage employee suggestions, it’s first important to explain what types of improvements you’re looking to make. Ultimately, decisions around changes should be customer-driven. By keeping the customer always at the forefront of decisions, you’ll find you sell not only a product or a service, but a satisfying experience. However, it is management’s job to give workers’ a perception of the customer’s needs and wants—and the types of improvements that can help better meet these needs.
It’s important to let staff know the continuous improvement efforts are paying off, but you can only do this with measurable goals in place. What will be the first successful turning point following the program implementation? The key objective for the first quarter? Or the desired result a year after program implementation? Take time to brainstorm around these metrics so that you have a goal for which to strive.
Make it transparent
Now that your employees are sharing ideas about how to help make customers’ experience more satisfying, what happens next? It’s important to demonstrate that how management will review those ideas. Put a transparent structure in place to show how management is incorporating this feedback. Identify members of the team who will make decisions on suggestions so employees know where to go with questions. Then make sure that the continuous improvement leaders provide regular feedback during management meetings
In addition, consider recognizing or otherwise celebrating successful improvements in public ways. Companies can use recognition programs that highlight the most innovative suggestion of the week or run leaderboards encouraging friendly improvement competitions to build progress. This demonstrates that ideas are being heard, allows employees to share in the success of the programs and builds excitement about future suggestions.
Sow a culture
You can talk all you want about the importance of making customers happy, but your talk is meaningless if employees don’t share this desire. To help employees embrace this essential customer-driven culture, make it a regular part of your policies, key value statements and even a standard training component. By emphasizing at many levels your corporate principle that the customer comes first, you’ll find workers at all levels of the organization prioritize efforts to make customers happy.
Make sure everyone within your organization understands the importance of the continuous improvement program. Spread the word through multiple channels that they need to stay focused on making processes as Lean as possible. Your competitors are strong and won’t hesitate to take advantage of a mistake or a slow response to market changes. A continuous improvement program keeps your company competitive and prepared to react quickly to anything.
To this end, it is necessary to incorporate continuous improvement participation into managers’ routines. Make this a routine part of monthly meetings or quarterly results discussions. You can use these platforms to give updates about your progress, initiatives and KPIs. Find allies among your managers who will encourage the participation of the full staff.
Teach continuous improvement tools
Continuous improvement is about learning new ways to do things, right? So it’s important to continue teaching others how to look for improvements.
As a continuous improvement expert you have at your disposal a great set of tools and methodologies that can help all the members of your company analyze problems and make improvements to their daily activities. Make sure you’re always open to helping others apply these tools. With this teaching mindset, you become an improvement guru, someone your peers and employees can turn to with questions and suggestions about improvements.
Next StepsPrev chapter: Creating a Kaizen Culture – Values & Alignment
Next chapter: Strategies to Secure Engagement and Program Success