A BLENDED APPROACH CAN DELIVER RESULTS
AND BUILD A LASTING IMPROVEMENT CULTURE
WHICH IMPROVEMENT PATH ARE YOU ON?
Company improvement programs frequently take one of two generalized paths:
- A leadership-driven project-based approach with facilitators and cross-functional teams focused on the improvement of process metrics that generate the most significant financial benefit.
- A servant-leadership style that asks questions and encourages everyone to find solutions and make small daily improvements. The small changes might not have an immediate impact on the overall processes or a way to show a financial return.
Imagine taking one of two improvement roads, which promise to lead to the same place.
Both journeys can ultimately generate results, but to both create a lasting program that produces verifiable financial benefit, and one that creates a culture of continuous improvement, we advocate a blended approach.
Now imagine a country road with two parallel tracks, one for each pair of wheels.
One track represents the large projects executed by cross-functional teams, and the second parallel track is the small daily improvements made by everyone. Let’s discuss why the dual-track approach is so important.
For any initiative to last in the long term, it has to generate an actual and-or perceived benefit. When there is a change in leadership, a buyout, or a downturn in the business cycle, the tangible benefits will be what justifies the program and enables it to weather the storm.
A potential downside is that it is possible to have a program with hundreds of improvement projects completing annually that generates top quartile financial returns yet does not impact every area, functional group, or each individual in the corporation.
Consequently, employees see the improvement program as “project-based,” and the culture does not change.
What is needed? Leaders in all areas must understand their roles and engage each employee on a regular and ongoing basis. Parallel to selecting, scoping, resourcing, and executing large improvement projects; everyone is making changes to their work areas, creating or updating the work standards, and sharing them.
Employees are encouraged to identify and use their process knowledge to implement changes that help them get their work done.
The satisfaction resulting from an ongoing series of positive outcomes builds personal buy-in and moves the company toward a culture change.
What is the improvement to be measured against? Doing the work to establish a process metric(s), validating the measurement system and collecting historical data is the foundation of the verification. This should be one of the early activities of an improvement project. Estimation of the potential value of the improvement against a realistic goal justifies the effort.
Improvement does not have an endpoint or finish line. It is forever; Two parallel tracks that are leading to safer, easier, better, faster, and lower cost processes.