We had an interesting discussion on a recent training course about how continuous improvement within a department can be supported.
One manager on the course was implementing a Kaizen Programme and his main concern was that the structure of the organisation, and especially his team, might not be supported sufficiently well to implement and maintain a continuous improvement process.
I made some notes and shared it later with the group. Here are my ideas; see if they would work for you.
1) It firstly needs support from top management, with a commitment to providing the resources that drive improvement at all times. Without this commitment, it may be a dead duck before you start.
2) The culture of the team and the whole organisation has to support continuous improvement. If there are any obstacles (people, systems, processes, etc.), you will find it difficult to maintain any
3) The trust levels between everyone involved has to be very high. This means managers have to deliver on their promises to their teams, so everyone is fully committed to changes that have to be made.
4) Continuous support has to be given by management. This would involve facilitating action groups, providing coaching and training, and offering different levels of support at an individual level.
5) Processes of measurement and evaluation have to take place vigorously. Without these, people will not get the necessary feedback to know how the improvement programme is being assessed, and what they can do to support the mechanisms of success.
6) The team must function as a learning hub. The managers have to enable this learning to be applied, so everyone can appreciate what needs to happen to support improvement. Without a learning culture, you will be running through treacle!
7) Each improvement needs some kind of recognition and reward. This doesn’t have to be monetary, but needs to be worthwhile so everyone can see the benefits of applying themselves to providing the
conditions to support continuous improvement.
We discussed that Kaizen should always be a part of the culture, and not seen as a short-term campaign that will fizzle out when attention is placed on something else. Don’t view it as a ‘program’ that we are going through; see it as a ‘way of working’ that everyone can and should subscribe to every day. That way, you encourage support and an attitude of Kaizen that creates a great working environment.
It’s been said that there are three types of people in business: – those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who ask “what the heck happened?”!
At the start of each month, it’s a good time to analyse how you want the next month to be, so you can look ahead with control and anticipation, rather than look back with regret.
The start of the month gives you a chance to review what went right last month, what can be corrected, and gives you an opportunity to renew, regroup, recommit and reinvent yourself as a manager and leader.
It’s a process that can renew your energy and rejuvenate your motivation. So, what’s the best way of going about it?
• Spend 30 minutes or so with your monthly calendar. Write down all your deadline dates, when projects are due, important meetings, personal and business appointments, and other important dates. Then, working backwards, estimate how much time you’ll need to prepare for each event or project. Enter the start date on your calendar, and then you’ll have a vision of how you need to work to accomplish the goal.
• Make a plan for your own development this month. Read a professional journal, improve a specific skill, write an item for a newsletter or journal, attend a short seminar or course…anything that will improve your contribution to your own personal and business development.
• Now work to a weekly plan. Set deadlines for next week, so you know what are the urgent things that need doing. Practice efficiencies with paper, e.g. handle each piece of paper only once. Notice when you procrastinate, prepare and be on time for every meeting and become a better delegator.
• A strategy you might want to follow is the OATS formula: Have Objectives written down in priority order, plan Activities that will help you achieve your goals, allow the Time to achieve those goals, and Schedule when is the best time to acco0mplish each goal
• Manage your relationships well this month. Make an effort to ensure every member of your team feels important. Remember the old phrase ‘catch someone doing something right’. Be consistent in the way you lead your team, rather than making it depend on whatever mood you are in, and do just one thing this month that will make your work environment a better place for others to work in. For example, when was the last time you bought some fruit or doughnuts in for your team?
• Make a monthly resolution to do one thing better this month. Then do it again next month. And the next. Slowly but surely, you’ll see the team respond to you and, by setting this example, you encourage all to contribute to the whole business in a positive and motivational way.
All this will mean maintaining a proactive management style, giving you the chance to make a really good impression on higher management and clients.
Let us know how it goes. Be the kind of person who makes things happen; then you won’t have to look back and wonder what the heck happened! Have a great month!
The Kaizen model of continuous improvement originated in Japan and has been used as a management concept for incremental, or gradual/continual, change or improvement. It has been a way of life for Japanese people for centuries and can be applied to key elements of business like quality, effort, employee involvement, change initiatives and communication.
The emphasis is on gradual improvement, built on a foundation of strategic initiatives that create specific and measurable benefits to the business. It’s evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and is best applied in incremental change situations over the long-term.
How do you get your team to buy in to the Kaizen concept?
Firstly, gain agreement that small changes would be advantageous to the working climate. It will have greater backing if all recognise the need for growth.
Ascertain how you could perform as a team if everyone was willing to commit to improvement. Don’t expect or demand overnight radical change…gain their agreement that small, specific improvements will be easier and more effectively implemented than larger, more global ones.
Decide how the team can measure the effectiveness of any new initiative. This will help gain ownership of any changes that can be made.
Commit to the changes yourself, so you set the example of what’s expected. Team members are more likely to commit if they see you championing the concept.
Create short-term wins that will help the team see successes quickly and frequently. Feedback of these wins will create a motivational environment.
Communicate the results and share the benefits. You’ll cement the commitment and drive the momentum forward to continue.
It’s always going to be easier for someone to aim for a 5% improvement over 3 months, than a 20% improvement over a year, so the Kaizen concept of continuous and frequent improvements will provide you with an easier acceptance level from your team. And that can only be good for morale and confidence!