Category Archives: Continuous Improvement

More Barriers to Innovation & Continuous Improvement

under construction barrierIn earlier posts we identified some of the most common barriers to innovation.

Since then, we’ve posed the question to a number of improvement leaders and specialists, and have been presented with some interesting responses!

Here are just a few:

“The greatest barrier is communication. Companies often adopt a culture change without building communication into their strategic plan… the KPI’s and objectives required to accomplish the change. It has to be two-way communication to effectively engage the entire workforce.”

“The greatest barrier to innovation is simply not believing that it is necessary. Many companies view innovation merely as a corporate marketing exercise, like a new flavour of their product. Real innovation is going to turn an organisation into a place where things change for the better.”

“I see lack of motivation as main barrier. Innovation in the context of a company has to do with its core processes, products & services, defects & quality costs, or market status elements to name a few system component where innovation is usually expected to take place. That requires aiming at efficiency of operations, not just the effectiveness of an implemented system.”

“The biggest barriers I’ve seen are resistance to change and Group Think.”

“The chief barrier to innovation is the Barrier Of Strategic Success, colloquially called the Boss.”

“To me, the most common barrier to innovation is within ourselves. Innovative thinking is in all of us, but when is the last time you really let it out; and once out, really championed it across your organization. Even innovations must be “sold” to peers, superiors and even subordinates before that vision can be transformed into reality. Usually it’s fear that stops people from making their vision known.”


Survey Says: Work on the Right Things

A fundamental requirement to continuous improvement involves working on the right things, and surveying customers and employees can put you in the best position to make the best decisions.

By gathering critical knowledge about what your employees and customers really think and how they feel about your organization, you can identify the true status-quo as well as the best areas on which to focus your improvement effort.

Ideally, the results of these surveys will include recommendations for action and intervention and provide the insight that is often in short supply so that you have a clear perspective as to where and how to make changes.

Here are three types of surveys you might consider:

Employee Opinion Surveys: Engaged employees have been shown to provide better customer service, work more productively and generate higher profits for their employers. An effective survey can help you measure engagement levels, perceptions and misunderstandings

You can also judge the effects of any interventions or changes by surveying employees both before and after the changes have taken place.

Customer Satisfaction Surveys: Competitive success hinges on the ability to anticipate and exceed customer needs. An effective survey can measure the perceived quality of your products and services from the standpoint of your customers and the market — what your customers think about your organization, its products/services, and the service level provided.
In addition, these surveys will help you incorporate the voice of your customers into decision-making processes, identify potential barriers to improvement or other strategies and provides guidance as to areas that are most in need of improvement.

360°Leadership Development Surveys:  Strong leaders welcome and benefit from 360° feedback, recognizing that there is often a gap between what they think they say or do, and what they actually say or do.

This type of survey can help leaders at all levels gather valuable feedback from peers, superiors and team members — feedback that sheds light on the effectiveness and implications of leadership style, communication and behavior. Equally as important, these surveys also provide unique insight into the specific improvement opportunities that can increase effectiveness. 

Continuous Improvement and Two-way Communication

We all recognize that communication plays an important role in continuous improvement, and several past posts have referenced different aspects of how and why.

Examples include using effective communication to build trust and engagement, the importance of sponsor interaction, or even making communication the target of our improvement effort.

But it is also critically-important to keep the communication interactive… or, to be more precise, “bi-directional.”

The interactive requirement pertains to all forms of improvement-related communication, including team meetings, employee forums, one-on-one interviews, etc.

Issuing statements, updates, “missives” or memos isn’t enough! Instead, leaders and managers must regularly engage in two-way communication forums with project teams as well as the work force at large… as we all know, “going to Gemba” (where the work is done) is the best way to learn about how to improve work and work processes.

Of course we can’t learn if we don’t listen.

Driving Change

change2Many people say effective leadership is all about driving change. 
Yet most change efforts fail!
Having an organized approach can certainly help, but the first step is to understand that change is good, as indicated by Winston Churchill’s quote! 

A past post about the value of change sums it up succinctly, but after all, isn’t continuous improvement all about continuous change?
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Prioritizing Part 2: Quantifying the Waste

Our previous post was about “prioritizing,” or making prudent decisions about the work on which we chose to work.  Quantifying waste is a similar concept, as it too is among the most important decisions we make, and it does three very important things for an organization or an Improvement team…

First, it helps you distinguish between the “big‐hitters” and the “nice‐to‐have” improvements, so you focus on the most important opportunities first.

Second, it makes the organization aware of the cost of a delay in tackling a “big‐hitter.”  If a problem is wasting $5 million per year, every week of delay is wasting nearly $100,000, so the organization wants to make sure nothing slows this improvement effort.

And third, quantifying the waste enables you to have more meaningful discussions with other parts of the organization whose support you need to change the processes that cause the waste.

Does your organization put a strong focus on quantifying waste? If so, which methods have worked best?

For a few additional thoughts, you might also review a short white paper on our Website.