Skip to main content

Three ways to take the sting out of continual improvement

Continual improvement only happens when you actually do something.

So, why do we generally spend so much time talking about change rather than doing something about it?

Available on Kindle, iBooks
and in paperback
Whilst there are a whole range of reasons as to why we opt for debate rather than action, most of them boil down to people being afraid of change itself. With that in mind, here are three quick and simple ways to get change to start taking effect if it has stalled in your business.

Use experiments

Remember when you were at school and you performed experiments? You didn’t know what the outcome was going to be and that was OK. When we undertake continual improvement activities it is highly likely that we don’t exactly know the right formula for a successful change.

So, we can use the same idea (it is an experiment) and learn from our results. We don’t have to be iron cast with our changes and by sharing this lack of expectation with our team can help to do just the same thing.

Have a go, see what the results are and then decide what to do next.

Harness the Kaizen approach

Having too much ‘other stuff’ on your plate at work (such as your job!) is another reason why we don’t move from talking to doing. The Kaizen principle encourages us to break tasks down into small, bite size, chunks and nibble our way to success.

The act of dealing with a few small chunks is psychologically easier than trying to deal with a huge project and this allows our natural momentum to come to the fore. Most people use this approach to get projects started and build confidence amongst their team and you can get the same results too.

So, if in doubt, go smaller with your change steps until progress starts.

With friends

The last point I want to share with you in this post is the idea of undertaking change with friends (or, at least colleagues that you get along with!).

Sharing issues and challenges with a work colleague can do wonders to get projects moving, keeping each other accountable and helping each other out if you get stuck.

Many of us keep our challenges and frustrations to ourselves and a constructive working relationship with a colleague can make a big difference if we feel this way.

So, find a friend, share your improvement challenges and come up with an effective working relationship that makes change happen.

PDCA

These are just three ideas on how to move from talking to doing. If you subscribe to the PDCA approach (Plan – Do – Check – Act) you will know the importance of testing ideas, using small steps and teamwork to get change to happen and stick.

If you would like discover some simple and effective methods to generate continual improvement ideas, and ways to put them into practice for your business, then check out my book Effective Continuous Improvement. It is available for Kindle, via iBooks and paperback.

All the best,

Giles



About the author Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who specialises in helping businesses to grow and improve through better business processes. Giles is also the author of Business Process Re-Engineering and creator of the 'Making It Happen' continuous improvement toolkit.

Popular posts from this blog

Where there is a (performance) gap there is a concern

I had a really good day yesterday working with a client's team.

The team has issues. Plenty of issues. Some are managerial issues, some are people issues and some are production issues.

When I first met the team they didn't know what to do with their issues, so I started by helping them to see more issues.

Issues everywhere, they didn't seem very impressed.

And then we captured the issues as 'concerns' into the tried and tested 'concern cause countermeasure' format and followed the process:

Concerns probed for root causes and root causes converted into countermeasures.
Soon they realised that some of their root causes dealt with numerous concerns and they gained momentum.

Yesterday we pulled another one of their processes apart and identified all of the gaps. The gaps became concerns and we fed them back into the process. Now they have a practical action plan (of countermeasures) to upgrade the process in question.

What do you do with your performance gaps? …

Continuous Improvement and the Five Legged Race

Many improvement projects need the buy in of several people before they can progress. Amongst these people there will be some that have a firm view of what needs to happen and are keen to make progress. Some of the people won't be sure and they will need more time. Other people might not be that interested and have other priorities they want to focus on.

None of this is wrong.

It is an observation of mine and one that I see repeat on a regular basis with the businesses that I come into contact with.

But, if we take the principle from the observation we have an interesting improvement strategy (one that I personally use when I get stuck with my client's improvement projects).

You might have worked out the approach from the title of this blog post, but it is analogous to a three-legged race (or four, five, nine...). If someone in the group moves in the wrong direction and / or at the wrong speed then the whole group falls over.


In the example I gave at the start it is no differe…

Do you have time to prepare (in order to become super productive)?

I had a funny conversation a few weeks ago with a team that was complaining about one of their colleagues spending 'ages' preparing their workstation within their factory. I meet a lot of people that spend too long preparing (and effectively procrastinating) so I was intrigued by their comment. It turns out that this individual didn't spend too long but rather his colleagues dived into their work without thinking through what the best way to work was...

The slower to start gentleman did in fact prepare his work area. He was also able to produce a far greater amount of work in the same time period because he had invested in a smarter way of working than his counterparts. The time spent preparing his working area was valuable and not overdone.

This example reminds us of the importance of the second S in 5S (set in order) and how workstation design is critical if we want to maximise the productivity of our teams. Whether this is a physical work area in a factory, the filing s…