Implementing and building an effective culture of continuous improvement is not just about executing a handful of process improvement projects – even if it’s a good place to start. More is required to drive sustainable results over time and make continuous improvement part of organisational culture. Only then can real transformational changes take place. Continuous improvement has been a highly attractive endeavour for decades, yet many organisations continue to face challenges in turning aspirations into realities.
Implementing a sustainable continuous improvement system has rarely been easy, as the path to building a continuous improvement culture is often characterised by implementation efforts that fell well short of expectations. Indeed, the success rate for these efforts turns out to be less than 60 percent. So where did the 40 percent-plus go wrong? Invariably by failing to adhere to one or more of the three well-established principles of a successful CI implementation structure: strategy and leadership, deployment design, and organisational roles and responsibility. Implementing continuous improvement needs to be more than just an exercise in better defining and adhering to processes; it should also embody several key success factors for each of these principles. These are essential to creating a climate that empowers and equips people to drive sustainable transformation.
Strategy and leadership
Aligning organisational leaders behind each project and confirming their sponsorship and involvement is one of the most fundamental and important factors affecting continuous improvement. Continuous improvement doesn’t happen overnight — it is a multiyear journey that requires long-term vision and commitment, so expectations and a strong leadership mindset should be instilled across the organisation early in the process.
Key success factors:
- Senior leaders play a critical role to enable successful transformation and drive culture change
- The transformation process is defined in terms of how operations will drive business improvement, together with a clear improvement strategy and a clearly articulated vision of what winning looks like
- The fundamental principles of what good operations look like and how ‘we’re going to transform the way we do work’ must be inculcated into the leadership team — new leaders recruited into the organisation must understand these principles, believe in them and understand how to lead using them
A major factor affecting the successful deployment of long-term continuous improvement initiatives today is the fundamental change taking place in the way companies manage and execute work. This disruptive shift simultaneously makes continuous improvement efforts more important while rendering some traditional approaches ineffective. For instance, deployment that is focused on lean principles only, without tie-in to business goals, will fail to live up to its promise as a transformation tool. As a result, companies are compelled to adapt how they embed continuous improvement within their organisational cultures.
Key success factors:
- Take a balanced approach that creates early wins in the short term and builds capabilities for the long term
- Meet the quarterly targets but obtain buy-in for the longer-term process and systems improvement to ensure sustainability
- Create best practice assets (model lines) and customer segments that people can visit, see and touch — keep these model lines ahead of the curve to reach higher stages of maturity
- Get clarity on the end state and put in place maturity models that allows the organisation to evolve to the end state
- Develop a coordinated approach to cross-organisational execution and benefit tracking, focused on a consistent set of shared priorities — engagement across broader operations and functions are critical to link improvements end-to-end
Organisational roles and responsibility
Building an improvement culture is a task that should be undertaken internally by site-based leadership. It shouldn’t be driven by external or even internal corporate experts. To do this, leadership needs to provide a clear vision of the end state and a codified road map of what needs to be done so that line managers across the organisation can consistently build the culture. Improvement needs to become the ‘way we work’ and should be built into the daily management routines. Only line management can do this.
Key success factors:
- The amount of work projects coming from central manufacturing teams needs to be formally reviewed and minimised
- Plant managers need to be in control to call on central team support for projects they drive within the principles defined and the context of the improvement strategy
- The entire journey must be visible to all — each function across the value chain needs to understand their evolving role as the new system of work established
- Functions need to be streamlined and redundancy in the central manufacturing team roles eliminated to remove excess coordination and rework
- Plant leader roles need to be reset to increase the amount of time plant managers and front line supervisors spend on the line coaching — this needs to be measured
Given the rapid changes in the modern workplace, continuous improvement is even more vital today. It’s a highly effective mindset, culture, and toolkit for navigating, focusing, and iteratively improving amidst the rapid changes organisations are undergoing at many levels. By focusing on the principles discussed above, companies can successfully weave continuous improvement into their DNA.
DOWNLOAD: The Definitive Guide to Integrative Improvement to find out more about how this approach can drive sustainable competitive advantage for your business.
|The TRACC framework helps organisations build standardised and integrated good practice and performance capacity across their Plan, Source, Make and Deliver functions. Simultaneously it accelerates their collaboration and alignment capacity to build world class end-to-end value chains, enabling the organisation itself to become the ultimate source of sustainable competitive advantage.|