“If I had to choose between lean training for a new recruit to lead a lean area or providing him or her with a copy of clearly written standard work, I would choose standard work every time.” – Creating a Lean Culture, David Mann
Taking the first steps on a Continuous Improvement (CI) Journey
Often, the introduction of a CI initiative is accompanied with some amount of training and education for all employees. Certainly, employees must understand the “Why” the initiative is important to the organization in order to foster engagement and commitment. Quite commonly, the “Why” is well received by all. However, the “How” we implement, can seem daunting to employees and a bit overwhelming and misunderstood. Perhaps, it is even perceived as more work and outside of the normal day to day tasks. So how does an organization take the first step?
Organizations frequently use the word transformation when describing the journey of a CI initiative. This implies that over a period of time; the organization has changed the way it thinks, performs and manages the business – a cultural shift – a transformation. A key principle of CI is small changes and improvements over time lead to large scale change and results. One can apply this same philosophy to the CI journey itself. By identifying key behaviors for leadership and implementing those small changes and key processes over time; we begin the CI journey, reinforcing the cultural shift and leading to large scale change – a transformation.
By providing supervisors and managers with a thoughtful and structured process for daily/weekly and monthly routines, we create the necessary momentum needed to lead this transformation. Adherence to this process is extremely important in the early stages and can help ease the overwhelming feeling of the “How do we do it?”. Until a new process becomes “the way we do business”, constant reinforcement, coaching and accountability is critical.
In Brandon Hall Group’s 2014 State of Performance Management Survey, 34% of global organizations said that executives do not hold leaders accountable for performance.
To assure sustainment of a new organizational culture, it becomes necessary to build accountability into the process. It is natural for leaders to fall back on what they know or what they have done in the past – especially in a moment of crisis for the organization. Certainly, new behaviors and routines take time to become the new standard or habits of the organization.
By providing our leadership with a clear set of expectations and obligations, we eliminate those grey areas of individual management style, define common goals, standardize best practices that drive performance and reinforce the commitment and support to the frontline workforce. Essentially, setting the stage and closing the gaps for a CI transformation.