- Continuous improvement (CI) takes process change to the next level by linking improved outcomes to cost optimization, employee productivity and sustainable growth
- The path to cultural transformation mandates that CI be embraced and instituted at all levels of the organization – top-down, bottom-up and sideways
- Continuous improvement can be effective driver of growth in small and mid-sized enterprises; lesser known fact is that it can bring agility to large corporations as well
In our previous post on process excellence , we shared insights on understanding and bettering fundamental operational, business and technology processes. Small, gradual and grassroots process changes can pave the path to continuous improvement and cultural transformation.
Some leaders erroneously believe that CI is incompatible with disruptive change and innovation. Not true. One of the best examples comes from the evolution of high jump discipline in the Olympics. It evolved from the straight-on and scissors methods in the 1890s to straddle techniques for the next 50 years to the breakthrough Fosbury flop in 1968. Some achievements were attributed to better training and greater athlete strength, but a majority of the new disruptive jumps were a clear result of continuous improvement.
The undeniable fact is that CI is a prerequisite for change and change occurs when operating in the culture of CI. Organizations keep improving till they reach a point where they have to find ‘new ways of doing things’ for the next level of improvement – this essentially becomes the disruptive change.
A framework for Continuous Improvement
- It must start at the top. Leaders and executives must demonstrate the will to inject continuous improvement into their organizational DNA. It must figure large in their vision, strategy and thinking and cannot be limited to time- and result-bound programs and projects.
- The next step – arguably the most difficult – it the translation of CI leadership mandates into executables in operational and functional areas. It requires a thoughtful review and redesign of processes across the organization.
- CI can result in incremental and/or disruptive changes, depending on the industry, functional area, mind and skills set of employees and managers. Each team member must be primed to take on these challenges as a path to achieving their personal and organizational goals.
- Finally, employees must be empowered to create solutions, learn from mistakes and backed by a ‘be ultimately right, not just fast’ philosophy. When given such autonomy, employees will embrace and embed CI in their everyday work, thus making it a part of the culture.
Benefits of a thoughtful Continuous Improvement practice
Small and mid-sized enterprises innovate, improve revenues and profitability and set the path for sustained growth. Many large corporations rediscover agility and nimbleness by partnering with smaller entities in areas where they have slowed down. Employees are more invested in their jobs, teams and organizations because one simple concept – being the best that one can be. CI creates an environment of constant learning through experimentation, ultimately resulting in organic cultural transformation. Call us today to learn how we can guide you through process excellence, continuous improvement and cultural