Continuous Improvement (CI) initiative
Assess – you must start to see how your organization adds value to the customer and where the waste exists. We’re not used to thinking this way – we do our jobs everyday and don’t always think about the little things that can add up quickly. Assess which functional areas are most critical at the moment – those that can add the most value to the customer or that are your biggest risks.
Train — provide tools, resources and training to all your employees. That may simply be accomplished by providing articles and blogs like this. Or you may choose to utilize outside resources such as consultants or facilitators. Whichever way you go – your employees will need to gain knowledge that effectively implements changes in your company.
Plan – Next, plan out your CI initiative. Start with small improvements that will help to get your people up to speed. If the improvement seems too big to bite off at one time, then break it down into smaller pieces. Also, start with a smaller group of talented people who come from diverse parts of the business rather than with bigger groups. In my experience, trying to implement CI programs company-wide is a recipe for disaster. Once the initial group gains experience and confidence, then expand the size and number of CI teams.
Implement – This is where you try a lot of different things. Just like anything else – it takes failing to find success. As someone once told me — fail fast because that means you’re close to success. Also, be sure to to identify the specific targeted improvement metrics (e.g., 30% reduction/improvement) you would like to get. If you don’t put a number down, then it’ll be difficult to gauge your success level with the improvement initiative once it’s completed.
Validate – Verify your results. Did you gain the improvement you expected? If not, why? Don’t give up on the work even if you’ve gained some benefit but not your target. There’s always room for more – so don’t stop until you find the additional corrective measures that get you to your goal.
Standardize – Once you’re satisfied with your improvements, then memorialize them and make them your new standard. This includes building in systems to verify that all employees are trained on the new standard and that you take the time to spot check each other’s work. Improvements are difficult means to create new habits, so building systems into your CI program will help new improvements stick over time. Don’t let the old ways of doing the work creep back into your organization.
The bottom line is this: there is no end point. CI programs are iterative processes of assessing, training, planning, implementing, validating, standardizing your activities. Now is the perfect time. Start making improvements now – you’ll be impressed with how much opportunity exists inside your businesses today.
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