Tag Archives: sustaining an improvement effort

Sustaining Improvements

sustaining improvements

Sustaining improvements is a fundamental aspect of Continuous Improvement and, as pointed out in our previous post, we must avoid the costly pitfall of allowing people to “backslide to the old way of doing things” after a project’s completion.

Sustainability, ultimately, is a function of consistency and management attention. For example, when the CEO or plant manager walks out on the shop floor, it is a fantastic opportunity to notice and reinforce the gains, and to ask about what other possibilities people see. This practice in itself is a good first step for avoiding a backslide.

Two additional concepts that can also help avoid backsliding are “stickability” and “spreadability.”

Stickability is what makes improvements last. Some proven ways of achieving it include:

  • Management follows achievement with recognition and communication of the success.
  • Involving the people doing the work in the improvement project. This is particularly helpful when a snag with the new process arises.
  • Faithfully following a formalized implementation plan such as our 8-step process or John Kotter’s process for “leading change” that was mentioned in our previous post. By taking a more formalized approach project leaders and organizational managers will have the data to manage new processes and measure progress, thus becoming aware of any movement toward a backslide more quickly.

Spreadability, which is the second half of Step 7 in our implementation process, occurs when we stabilize and standardize the improvement throughout the organization. This can be challenging because, by definition, standardizing across organizations involves implementation by people who were not part of the development team. Consequently, achieving spreadability requires a steadfast effort by senior leaders and managers at all levels.

A few best practices for making improvements spreadable include:

  • Encourage people to go around and visit other sites or functional areas to learn and adopt implementation ideas.
  • Recognize and give credit to those who implement improvements even if the new process was not their original idea.
  • Keeping the improvement projects small and tightly scoped, which will help to keep them more spreadable.
  • Communicate frequently and widely to promote both recognition and awareness, and to make it clear that Continuous Improvement is the “cultural” way of doing business within the organization.

Six Pitfalls that Lead to “Discontinuous” Improvement

Many, if not most organizations make attempts to improve their work. But no matter which specific methods predominate, almost all of these initiatives aimed at gaining greater efficiency, quality, speed, and/or customer delight have two important things in common:
  1. They generally 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 (not just a one-time ‘program’), we need to pay close attention to the ‘soft’ 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:
  1. Neglecting aligning individual or team goals with those of the organization
  2. Insufficient communication between management, the workforce, project teams and CI leaders
  3. Delegating leadership, which is a responsibility that should stay with senior management
  4. Manager’s or Sponsor’s failure to remove obstacles
  5. Lack of quick success
  6. Letting-up on the “gas” when initial results are made

6 Reasons Why Improvement Efforts Fail to be Continuous

As noted in our previous post, the biggest challenge to continuous improvement is not making the improvements, but rather making the effort continuous.

For an organization to go through a cultural change so that continuous improvement becomes the new way of working (not “just a program”), we need to pay close attention to the soft 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:

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

Read the full article…

Are Your Improvement Efforts Really Continuous?

The road to success?

Many, if not most organizations have implemented programs such as Six Sigma, Lean, TQM, or other variously named methods of systematically improving the flow of work; and almost all of these initiatives aimed at gaining greater efficiency, quality, speed, and/or customer delight have two important things in common:

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

So much opportunity can be found, just by systematically studying the work flow, gathering the data, and applying basic improvement tools or techniques that it is hard to fail to make some gains at the start. Once an organization is trained in systematic process improvement and sees some successes, one might expect the system of improvement to be self-sustaining and even accelerating!

But more often, it behaves like one of those self-extinguishing cigarettes which snuffs itself out after 5 minutes of inattention.

It turns out that making some improvements is the easy part; making them continuous is the hard part.

Initial improvements are often the low-hanging fruit, accomplished without making any fundamental changes in anyone’s lives.

But low hanging fruit is quickly plucked. Pretty soon, the next best opportunity will encroach on someone’s turf. It may challenge someone’s conventional wisdom or seem to threaten someone’s job security. Or the search for better ways may just come to seem unnecessary, because the organization is doing well enough and it is easier and less risky to keep things the same.

Without active effective leadership, the attempt to become a continuously improving organization will likely falter. For an organization to go through a cultural change so that this becomes the new way of working, not a ‘program’ but simply ‘the right way to manage’, we need to pay close attention to the ‘soft’ part of the improvement model to smooth the path, remove the obstacles, and continue to lead, communicate, and motivate both emotionally and intellectually.