Tag Archives: how to develop a culture of continuous improvement

Continuous Improvement Impediments

People most often agree that the “hard” part of Continuous Improvement (CI) isn’t making improvements, but rather making it “continuous!”

In a past newsletter we entitled this reality as “Discontinuous Improvement,” noting that two things common to a high percentage of CI efforts are:

  1. They produce some improvements
  2. Then they peter out

For an organization to go through a cultural change so that “continuous” improvement becomes the new way of working and not just a one-time program, we need to pay close attention to the softer part of the improvement model. This will enable us to smooth the path, remove the obstacles, and continue to lead, communicate, and motivate both emotionally and intellectually.

Following are six common causes of discontinuous improvement, which hopefully your organization can avoid:

  • Neglecting aligning individual or team goals with those of the organization
  • Insufficient communication between management, the workforce, project teams and CI leaders
  • Delegating leadership, which is a responsibility that should stay with senior management
  • Manager’s or Sponsor’s failure to remove obstacles
  • Lack of quick success
  • Letting-up on the “gas” when initial results are made

5 Steps for Developing a Creative Culture of Continuous Improvement

In a previous post we shared some thoughts on how creativity can be a desirable trait of a good CI Leader, and how it can also be a tool for helping people to accept and adapt to change.

Although not often associated with a leadership goal, establishing a creative culture of continuous improvement can help managers at all levels to achieve higher-levels of performance.

Here are 5 specific steps managers can take to develop and sustain a creative culture, based on findings published by New Horizons Learning Centers:

    1. Encourage new ideas. Management must make it clear that they will embrace new ways of doing things. Managers whose default is to turn against new ideas will quickly stop creative ideas. This simple habit alone is a critical first step toward developing a culture of creativity and change.
    2. Allow more interaction. A creative climate thrives when team members are allowed to interact with their own team mates as well as team members from other departments. Useful information is exchanged, new ideas flow both ways and new views on old challenges are heard for the first time.
    3. Tolerate failure. We have often noted that a culture of CI is one in which people must be given amnesty… a culture in which people are not afraid to fail. This holds true in a culture of creativity as well. While new ideas can sometimes prove too costly or might simply turn out to not be feasible, management needs to accept that time and resources will be provided knowing that the idea(s) might or might not come to fruition.
    4. Provide clear objectives and freedom to achieve them. People or teams who are provided with clear goals will be motivated to meet them. The goals provide a purpose for their creativity. Set guidelines with minimal constraints gives managers a degree of control with regards to the cost and time invested the creative behavior.
    5. Offer recognition. Create individuals prefer to work on tasks that actual motivate them. This also means they, like all other staff, like to be rewarded for a task well done. Management must offer tangible rewards that send a clear message that creative behavior is encouraged, supported and recognized in their organisation.

 

How to Strengthen Emotional Intelligence (E.Q.)

Completing our series on Emotional Intelligence (E.Q.), research indicates that emotional intelligence and the related leadership skills can be taught.

Here are five steps to the type of personal change required in order to increase emotional intelligence:

  1. Identify the ideal self. In a way, this is analogous to imagining the future state of an organization — what it would look like without defects, rework, misalignment of work and requirements, etc. — but the ideal self is much more personal. One person’s ideal self, building on his or her core identity and aspirations, will be different from another’s ideal self. Personal change starts with envisioning the ideal self — the way one would like to be, to work, and to be perceived. This requires an awareness of one’s strengths, an image of the desired future, and a sense of hope that the desired future is attainable.  Insight into the ideal self is not always straightforward. One might simply extrapolate a trend of the present instead of envisioning a truly desired future self.
  2. Identify the real self. Where is one, relative to one’s goals today. This step is not as easy as it sounds, as many leaders do not really know if they have resonance with their organizations. The greatest challenge is to see oneself as others do. Using multiple sources of feedback can be very useful. Many organizations use 360 reviews for all individuals in management positions.
  3. Develop a learning agenda. In contrast to the stream of to-dos and complying with agendas of others, the learning agenda is development focused; it can make it easier to let go of old habits and to develop new ones.
  4. Experimentation and Practice. The fourth step is to practice, look for feedback, and practice again. A consultant, coach or mentor should help the individual who has embarked on intentional change to find safe settings to practice the characteristics of the effective leader he or she envisions.
  5. Helping relationships. Coaches, mentors, guides are very helpful to someone aiming to transition to the ideal self through practicing greater EQ and inspirational leadership.

No matter where we are in our journey toward Continuous Improvement, Emotional Intelligence is an essential tool in our tool kit.

However, to be sustainable the desire to change must be intentional. The requirement is a desire for change; without that, no sustainable improvement is possible. People with no interest in developing E.Q. will not do so, but if they are motivated to change, the above-listed steps will help them.

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Too Busy to Improve?

“How do you motivate people who say they are too busy to improve?”

culture5This question was posed during a recent discussion and the most common responses identified “culture.”

We agree… in fact, among the highest achieving organizations we’ve encountered are those that have successfully planned and developed high performance cultures.

Some of the key steps in helping clients develop a high performing/high achieving culture include:

  • Identifying a clear link between individual/team/department performance and organizational goals.
  • Helping people develop a clear sense of purpose.
  • Help managers develop and refine their skills and ability to coach for improved performance.
  • Helping management devote the necessary time and attention to the performance management culture.

While these steps might appear simple, they are not easy to implement; and nearly impossible to achieve without significant contributions of time and energy from senior leaders.

The image above illustrates a typical framework that we use for performance management. It defines in quantitative terms, what needs to be accomplished.

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Key Attributes of High-Performing Continuous Improvement Teams

team2Building high-performing teams can bring about significant gains that go beyond those typically achieved by individuals.

But developing and leading teams is not easy work. We’ve identified the following eight attributes associated with high-performing teams:

  1. Work on what matters
  2. Create the “right” structure, including sponsor, leader, facilitator and members, all with clear roles
  3. Create a team charter
  4. Manage team meetings effectively
  5. Follow a defined methodology for problem solving and continuous improvement
  6. Monitor and improve teamwork skills
  7. Share accountability
  8. Recognize and publicize accomplishment

Read more…

Changing & Sustaining Culture

cultureandleadershipConcluding our “culture” theme, our Partners in Improvement groups discussed this subject during one of or recent sessions, and specifically focused on ways to change, support and sustain a culture that is aligned with a new strategic direction.

While peer pressure was identified as one component of helping people try to assimilate to the group they are in, the interchange was primarily geared toward how organizations can take more formal steps to sustain this important ingredient to success.

For example, sustaining the culture may include hiring people with values that are consistent with the culture. Some organizations try to identify these people through focusing on values in the interview process or using psychological profiles to identify people who would be likely to embrace the culture and those whose values would push them in a different direction.

Some organizations use publications and meetings to celebrate, reward, and reinforce examples of the culture in action. Others design measurement systems to support and reinforce the culture and behaviors they want to see.

For example, one of our Partners, in a successful attempt to build a culture of continuous improvement, has implemented a performance management system that rewards people who participated in an improvement over the past year; and the improvement must meet specific criteria:

  • Done
  • Quantified
  • Successfully run for a period of time
  • Standardized

Another Partner company puts everyone through a five day course to help people learn to work effectively in teams. Yet another has a course that emphasizes culture that every single employee must take. And some are sent back to take it a second time!

But the Partners Forum and the literature overwhelmingly suggest that culture is most powerfully influenced by the leadership… and in particular leadership’s behavior that is consistent with the culture.

“Living it begins at the top. If people don’t see the executives living and displaying the corporate values that they expect others to live by, the end is near.” [Ryan Rieches]