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Showing posts with the label continuous improvement

How serious are you about continuous improvement?

I get a lot of people tell me how serious they are about continuous improvement. It sounds like the right thing to say, doesn't it? And... there is a really simple way to determine how serious your business is about continuous improvement. Count the following: How many hours per week you and your team spend working on improvement activities? How many £ have you added to your bottom line because of your improvements? There are no right or wrong answers, but you'll know exactly whether you are serious about continuous improvement. About the author: Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who specialises in helping businesses to grow and improve through better business processes and embracing Kaizen. Giles is also the author of Effective Root Cause Analysis and ' What Does Good Look Like? ' .   Available from Amazon

Pare back your projects, if you aren't making progress

A question that I get asked a lot is: "How do I make progress if I just don't have the time?" It's a good question. Usually the person asking the questions has a lot on their plate and an ambition to implement lots of change all at once. My answer is to start paring back the number of projects you have on the go. Start to prioritise. Choose what will give you the biggest impact, for the least amount of effort, in the shortest time. If you park a few projects and you still aren't getting results, keep reducing the number, until you get to one project. This should be the single most important project you have in your list of opportunities. This is a project that will make a real difference. Available from Amazon Divert your attention and resources at this project until it is done. Get help from your team, your colleagues, your customers and suppliers... get help to get it done. And, if you have chosen wisely you'll start to gain some time back, so you can start

My new book is free this weekend!

My new book is free to download (Kindle version) this weekend . Specifically, it is free from the 13th of January 2023 to the 17th January 2023. I wrote it for business managers and owners that are fed up of being stuck in Groundhog Day! I wanted to challenge the thinking of this group about how routines are defined and used within their organisation. Most organisations have underdeveloped routines. They usually apply routines solely to the lower levels of an organisation. But what about the Board? What about the senior management team? Routines don't have to be rigid. You don't have to lose flexibility, creativity or talent. But, you can do something to stop you getting in your own way! If this rings a bell with you, then get hold of your free copy this weekend. Alternatively, if  Kindle isn't your thing, you can purchase a copy of the paperback from the same page . I hope that you get some good ideas from this short book (it has taken me three goes to condense the informa

C'mon! Just write the SOP!

We all know that we need to write things down. Available from Amazon This could be meeting actions, objectives, ideas for the future... or the knowledge we have in our heads. Let me focus on the last point, knowledge. For many organisations, this means capturing our experience so that others can use it. If you find your business growing then this is critical. You can't use telepathy! Often referred to as Standard Operating Procedures (or, SOPs), defining the one best way to do something is a great way to share knowledge in your organisation. But, why do so many people not bother to do this? Here are a few of the common issues I hear on my travels: They think it will take too long to write. They are worried that they'll get it wrong. Why bother? No one will read them. I've not done this before. Let's review. You don't have to spend hours writing SOPs. Even a few bullet points will move you in the right direction. If you are worried about getting the information wron

Are your teams clear?

I have recently finished working with a team that were struggling. They were struggling to meet their production schedules. They were struggling to respond to customer enquiries on time. They were burnt out and frazzled. After some prodding and poking it became clear what their issues were. In particular, it became obvious that expectations of the team weren't clear or defined. Defining what you expect from teams is a standard management approach. The problem with most teams is that leadership describe the standards in vague terms . So, what happens if you get the standards crystal clear? You should expect to see the team produce the right outputs. They should produce the outputs at the right time. And, they should produce them in an agreed way. Be clear with your teams. Ask the question: What does good look like? If you want to get some more ideas on how to define effective standards and visions, get your copy of my book today . What does good look like? is a practical guide to h

Embrace your improvement objectives, and your results!

It is funny how conversations with senior teams can turn frosty... when you get around to the topic of results. This is also the case when reviewing improvement objectives, when a similar result hasn't been produced before. Mostly the plans are great. They take time to produce and many people enjoy the planning process. When rubber hits the road, however, many teams seem to want to shy away. Does this happen with your team? A challenge for any leader in this situation is to make getting back on track with your improvement objectives a normal process. Not to hide the real position away, but to be honest about where you are and then do something about it. The RAG approach (Red, Amber, Green) in visual management is a good tool to use here. It can make the process of being honest an easier one. Whilst you need to come up with your own definitions of red, amber and green, a good starting point is: Red - completely off track and needs major support. Amber - slipping off track, but shoul

One small step to start planning 2021

As I write this post, I hope that you have already got plans in place for 2021 with regards to your process improvement projects. Even if your plans do not run in line with the calendar year, it can be worth taking the time now to reflect briefly on your plans to make sure that they are still inline with where you want to go. It is also, unfortunately, a task that many people don't get around to. Reviewing and revising business plans and continuous improvement plans can seem like a huge task. As you know, huge tasks often fall by the wayside as the day to day activities (and possibly crises!) take over. Kaizen, the art of using small steps, can help us here. Instead of firing off the 'fight or flight' response in the brain, consider having a five minute review of your plans. Don't commit to anything more than this. When you do carry out this quick review, if you feel inclined to make some changes and alter / improve your plans then feel free. This is the art of Kaizen,

What are your improvement 'guiding principles'?

If you have read my other blog posts, or books, you will know that I continuously refer to a specific challenge within continuous improvement . The challenge is what happens after you have improved all of the really obvious improvements. I refer to this as being the difference between moving from 'bad to OK' compared to moving from 'OK to amazing'. The first part of the journey is relatively straightforward. You see something that isn't right and you fix it. Simple. So, what happens when you move past this point and you can't see as many things to improve? You need a different focus, you have to start looking somewhere else for your improvement inspiration. Create a powerful vision for your business. Available from Amazon and iTunes The other day I was talking to one my my client's member of staff about this very issue. The person in question was relatively new to the business and had made a big impact to the running and organisation of their manufacturing

Take the pressure off! Using the Y-curve with your Kaizen improvements

Do you feel under pressure when you have to make changes happen in your business? It can be scary when we try something that we have never done before. I remember thinking to myself 'how on Earth am I going to figure this out?' on many occasions. I think the last time was a few weeks ago! Years on from becoming reasonable at the art of change I am still faced with the same dilemma. It is scary and it is clear to me why so many people shy away from making change happen. It is natural to get stuck in this oscillation. On one hand you need to make change happen; the business needs the improvement benefits. On the other hand you don't want to screw up... Last week I was talking to a young engineer that I am mentoring. He was paralysed. Changes were not happening at all. There was always some early promise with his projects and then, as completion (and judgement day) loomed, progress would evaporate. The engineer asked me for my views on this  during a recent conversati

Do you need a burst of improvement ideas for your business?

If you haven’t created your improvement action plan for 2020 yet then I have something for you. I have just completed my latest project – The CI Focus Tool . This Android App is now available on Google Play and provides a simple method for generating as many effective improvement ideas as you need. This is the same basic method that I describe in my book Effective Continuous Improvement  and is now available as a simple to use app. In essence it is a brainstorming focus tool. Press the focus button and you will be presented with a random continuous improvement focus. Brainstorm ideas around this focus with your team (whilst the timer is running) and there you go – a number of great ideas for you to prioritise and implement. The reason that this works so well is because of the focus. When your business runs out of its immediate problems to fix you need a different strategy. Very focused brainstorming helps you break past this problem and configuring the app to meet t

Write your actions down!

Get your copy from Amazon today I sat in my last management meeting yesterday for the year. They experienced a problem that many businesses have. The problem has nothing to do with the specifics of their business or their sector. It is a personal productivity issue . Most of their staff, during their meetings, don't write their actions down... Do your team do the same? Or, have they learned the art of capturing their tasks in writing and then working on them? None of this is rocket science, but it makes a massive difference to the results in most cases. I nagged my client's staff yesterday. I refused to start the meeting until everyone had something to write with and something to write on. We even captured an action log for the meeting, to refer to next time we meet. I know... outrageous cutting edge stuff! And here is my prediction. The chances of the team closing out their tasks will be higher. The chances of us closing down the issue they are workin

Get my new book for free today - Effective Root Cause Analysis

I'm pleased to announce that my new book is now available on Amazon . Even better - it is free to download on Kindle from the 18th of November until the end of the 20th of November . My reason for writing this book was the lack of results I see businesses get with root cause analysis methods. The thrust of this book covers two main areas: 1. How to better use root cause analysis methods to solve your business problems more effectively (in one go). 2. How to extend the root cause questions to get maximum impact for your business. I put a 'warning' at the start of the book as it focuses heavily on personal responsibility. I don't think this slant on personal responsibility and improving control at all levels of a business will bother any of my email readers. I know, however, that some people don't like to look in the mirror when it comes to business problems. To download your free copy of Effective Root Cause Analysis click on one of these links.

What to do when real life doesn't line up with your continuous improvement plans

How many times have you tried to make an improvement in your business and watch it come to nothing? For many of us real life doesn't resemble our plans. One of the common issues I see is that the way that we want a task to be organised on paper is difficult in reality. The frequent result from this situation is that the improvement grinds to a halt. So, how do you overcome this situation? Firstly, accepting that this is quite normal is a good place to start. When you move from 2D (paper) to 3D (reality) the translation might not always be perfect. Secondly, be willing to learn from your experiences. Embracing the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check and Act) cycle is a good strategy here. Over time you will become more effective at deploying change, if you learn from your earlier experiences . Thirdly, approach your improvement from the principles you are trying to deploy. Let me give you an example here to underline this point. Get your copy from Amazon today I sat in on a clie

Continuous Improvement Success Comes in Cans!

As I drove between clients yesterday I caught part of a BBC Radio 4 programme. The programme's callers were speaking about how disability had suddenly changed their lives. Listening to the courage and tenacity of the callers was inspiring. One caller in particular caught my attention. She had been talking about all of the obstacles she had overcome as she tried to regain her independence. There had been a theme through the last few calls around not waiting for other people to hand 'things' on plates. She quoted her mother: "Success comes in cans!" She carried on by saying that so many people talk about all the reason that they can not do something rather than finding a way to do something. Her point was that the solutions are there, just the attitude needed to shift. This resonated with me because of the work I am involved with. There are always a million reasons why something can not happen but it is the results that count. Some people will find a way

New book - Effective Root Cause Analysis

My new book is now out... If you have ever wondered if there is more than meets the eye when it comes to root cause analysis then the answer is "yes!". This book will show you how a couple of simple twists to 5 Why and Fishbone Diagrams can yield some huge changes to the performance of your business. Better still, if you ask the right kinds of questions your own personal performance will dramatically improve . The book includes some real world case studies so you can see exactly how powerful these tools can be when applied with the right mindset and approach. I have not written a book for nerds... I have written a book that is for business managers and owners that are sick and tired of the control and performance of the business not being where they want it to be. You can get your copy now from Amazon - click here . Enjoy, Giles About the author Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who specialises in helping businesses to grow and improve through be

Continuous Improvement; direction and progress is more important than perfection!

When I speak to managers about their continuous improvement programmes there is a common concern. ‘ Am I doing it right? ’ is the question that they often ask me. There seems to be a common belief that there is a right way to do continuous improvement. There isn’t. There are lots of ways to make it better, but there isn’t a single one right way to carry out continuous improvement. Note – over time you will likely find ways that work well for your organisation in terms of how you manage change. This can become your one best way to implement continuous improvement projects. But if you haven’t got there yet, don’t worry! The Standard Operating Procedure for making change happen in your business can come later. A path with unexpected turns One of the joys of continuous improvement is the learning that can take place . The journey is full of twists and turns. People are unpredictable and that can bring with it new ideas and difficulties.  Learning from these as you u

Do your team really know what they should be doing?

I have had numerous conversations with  numerous businesses over the past month about under performance within their business' processes. They haven't been achieving the results that they had hoped for and don't seem to be too happy about what their staff have been up to. It was pretty much the same conversation repeated for each business I spoke with. When I responded to these businesses I asked them about the clarity their team had about their roles. I was interested to find out what each individual business leader had done to make sure that the requirements of their processes, the business' needs and their own requirements had been passed on effectively. Having clear expectations in terms of activity, performance and deliverables is key to ensuring that your processes are being executed in the most effective manner. Well executed processes usually lead to good results if the process has been designed to be effective and efficient. If you spell out exactly how yo

Free Continuous Improvement Guide

I have recently published a new free guide, with the title: Six Quick Tips to Help Continuous Improvement Deliver Results Faster In the guide I share how to: Use the continuous improvement cycle properly. Get projects moving, if they are slow to start or have stalled. Identify the 'biggest bang for your buck' when reviewing opportunities. Determine the level of change you need to achieve through your improvements. Flip staff grumbles and concerns into positive improvement actions. Increase the overall rate of progress on your projects. All of the tips are highly practical and are no-cost strategies. To get your copy, just click on the button below and access the guide in just a few moments from now. Enjoy reading, 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 ' Ma

Getting Continuous Improvement Moving Faster and More Effectively

I sit in a lot of meetings where people talk about their continuous improvement projects. Sitting and talking doesn’t always equate to getting the changes put into effect and that’s what we need; the results count for everything. So, is there a simple way to help move projects from being stuck, delayed and appearing to wait for a perfect plan (or time)? The short answer is yes, and it revolves around our old friend the ‘80/20’ rule. Can you remember the 80/20 rule? This is the simple principle that states that a small number of inputs leads to a disproportionately large amount of rules. A little bit can go a long way, if you choose the right things to focus on. The opposite of this is also true; a lot of things can take a lot of time / effort / resources and yield very little in terms of overall results. The 80/20 rule (or Pareto principle) - a little bit of the right stuff can produce a lot of results! Phase 1 – quick wins and focus on the 20% that gives the 80% of resul

What is 5S and how does it help to improve the performance of my business?

Many businesses have heard of 5S; it is a simple workplace organisation system that is designed to make workplaces more effective and more efficient, as well as safer. Many businesses also try and fail at implementing 5S . It might be simple, but as you will know, anything that involves changing the behaviours of your staff isn’t always straightforward. If you haven’t heard of 5S before there are five basic steps, all beginning with ‘S’. They are: Sort – clearing out the clutter and re-distributing other people’s belongings. Set in order – optimising the workplace so that everything you need frequently is close at hand. Shine – cleaning the workplace to an appropriate level. Standards – defining what good looks like and how you will keep it that way. Sustain – forming the habits to retain the benefits of an organised and disciplined workplace. So, how does 5S improve the performance of your business? From a safety perspective, fewer accidents means less downtime.