Tag Archives: building a culture of continuous improvement

Engagement With a Purpose

Engagement with a purpose is a good way of building and sustaining a high-performing culture in a measurable way.

In many posts and during many client discussions, we have shared data showing that, when effectively initiated, enterprise engagement is the ideal way to achieve goals through people in a measurable way.

While studies have consistently found a high positive correlation between employee engagement and financial performance, the data also shows that correlation is not necessarily causation; and while employee engagement is a necessary ingredient for high performance, simply trying to make people happy is not enough.

In contrast, if we follow a strategic plan for engaging people around their work, we can achieve  a culture of engagement that is inextricably linked with team productivity, performance and job satisfaction — an organized plan for measurable results: engagement with a purpose.

Survey Says…!

An organization’s workforce is its most important and unique asset.

As such, we must make every effort to effectively lead, support, motivate, empower and engage employees, and to maintain a keen awareness of what this “key asset” thinks and feels about the organization.

Surveying employees on a regular basis is a good way to gain this knowledge. This simple practice can put us in the best position to make the best decisions, and can better-enable us to optimize our efforts to bring about a culture of engagement and continuous improvement — a high-performance culture.

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

Additional benefits associated with regularly-conducted employee satisfaction surveys include:

  • Maintain an accurate picture of current reality with respect to employee engagement
  • Understand what employees value… the things that are most important to them
  • Understand employee concerns and the magnitude of those concerns, and how to use this information to implement necessary changes and improvements
  • Compile facts and data by which to measure the impact of changes
  • Compile a relative ranking as to how our results compare to the “best” companies

Are Your Employees Able to Speak-up?

Are all your employees motivated and able to speak up about their everyday business problems?

This simple question was the focus of a recent discussion among CI leaders, which brought forth a number of enthusiastic comments. Here are a few of the most common perspectives:

  • Respect is the basic rule. A good leader should be able to create a platform that allow employees involved in decision making for problems solving. Involvement and achievement can raise the moral of the work force.
  • It often boils down to the person who you are reporting to. Many years ago I was advised “When a problem is discovered, the only person you don’t want to be is that one that reports it.” I have found this to be true in many cases — especially where the issue has existed for a while.
  • This is one of the major failure mechanisms that destroys the implementation of successful improvement and transformation. It is not that CI fails; it is the current thinking of the leadership that kills it.
  • The solution is to treat all the problems as opportunities to improve, and to reward people when they raise their hand instead of ridiculing or punishing them.
  • It is not enough that the employees speak-up about the problems. Some action needs to happen afterwards as well. Otherwise the employees will give up after some time.
  • Employees that are engaged will speak up, as their goal is to improve the organization; those who are disengaged will not. If leaders promote a culture of engagement, they can enjoy the benefits of continuous improvement.

Drive a Culture of Continuous Improvement With E.Q.

EQandCI400As explained in our previous post, Emotional Intelligence (E.Q.) is the phrase used to describe the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways.

It is also a capability that leaders can leverage to drive a culture of Continuous Improvement. Consider that creating a culture of continuous improvement requires a resonant leader who can:

  • Communicate a vision
  • Inspire action
  • Drive out fear
  • Motivate truth-telling
  • Resolve conflicts
  • Create a safe place for people to exercise a passion for high quality, highly efficient work

E.Q. can be applied extensively by leaders to accomplish these objectives, and to institute a culture of Continuous Improvement.  By exercising their ability to align and motivate people around a common vision and plan, emotionally intelligent managers and team members are very valuable in organizations desiring to create continuous steady improvement.

Equipped with a heightened awareness of the most common traits associated with higher-levels of E.Q., senior leaders can enhance their ability to create a culture of continuous improvement by seeking-out and engaging those within the organization who exhibit those traits.

In addition, there are ways for helping people to develop stronger emotional intelligence, which we’ll share in our next post.


Engagement Around the Work

Our previous post shared perspective on how productivity drives engagement, and that by enabling our workforce to become culturally-involved in continuous improvement we can promote greater levels of productivity which, in turn, yields greater levels of workforce engagement.

And so on…

Data clearly indicates that this outcome is most desirable, as organizations with an engaged workforce consistently outperform those without.

Here’s a short video that shares more details:

Funding Engagement & Improvement Initiatives Through ROI

engagementroiEarlier this year a Deloitte research summary reported that 87 percent of business leaders “cite organizational culture and employee engagement as their top challenge.”

Fortunately we don’t need to create new budgets to engage people, as outlined in a recent article published by the Enterprise Engagement Alliance. Instead, dollars can be spent more wisely by aligning engagement and improvement efforts to better-address all of the “levers of engagement,” and to improve both the work and workplace in measurable ways.

In many cases, organizations are already doing some of the fundamental work; the difference is to take a more strategic approach to these activities by applying proven engagement and continuous improvement best practices.

This approach will include:

  • Creating a formalized implementation plan and establishing performance measures so that progress can be tracked.
  • Developing realistic, achievable, and measurable goals and objectives.
  • Working with the leaders so that they can model the right behaviors and cascade the concepts to their reports and throughout the organization.
  • Identifying and quantifying opportunities for improvement and engagement.
  • Fostering an atmosphere of collaboration, innovation, continuous improvement, and fun.
  • Making sure people have the knowledge and skills needed to succeed.
  • Maintaining open lines of communication, including the rewarding and recognizing of people so that they feel supported in their efforts.
  • Measuring return on investment.


Building a High-Performance Culture of Continuous Improvement

culture3Numerous past posts have focused on the importance of an organization’s “culture” as a driver of continuous improvement and high-performance.

Critical to success in building this type of culture are the concepts of trust, amnesty, open communication, and engagement. In addition, we’ve found that the highest achieving organizations are those that have successfully planned and developed high performance cultures.

When helping clients build such cultures, our approach begins by identifying the underlying assumptions, beliefs and values that cause people to behave the way they do (the practices).

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.
  • Helping management devote the necessary time and attention to the performance management culture.
  • Creating a work environment that supports high quality and productivity.
  • Helping people at all levels understand the core values and beliefs which drive behavior.
  • Promoting practices that are in sync with organizational values and beliefs.
  • Clearly defining roles and responsibilities, performance gaps and accountabilities.
  • Help managers develop and refine their skills and ability to coach for improved performance.

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. These “contributions” must extend well beyond simply setting a strategy… leaders must also exemplify desired behaviors and consciously work at building and driving a high-performance culture if it is to be sustainable.

As Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!”

Leading the CI Charge

culture2Among the highest achieving organizations are those that have  successfully planned and developed high performance cultures of continuous improvement.

Management promotes this culture by truly valuing the workforce, fostering open communication, and both educating and empowering people to think outside of the box, with amnesty, as they seek innovative ways to study and improve the work and work processes.

These organizations also tend to have a highly-engaged workforce in which most people have an emotional attachment to their work. These engaged employees are willing to go “the extra mile” because they  feel that they are part of something bigger, working on behalf of the organization and its goals.

But Continuous Improvement and Engagement are top-down-driven strategies.  Without the support and commitment of senior management, neither concept can become the cultural way.

“A culture of continuous improvement begins with leadership,” said John Knotts, a business professional leader and consultant in Austin, Texas.  “If it is not understood, influenced, and supported by leaders, it is doomed to struggle and fail.  Thus, it takes significant leadership engagement to create a culture where all employees are continuously improving what they do every day.”

The same is true about engagement, as summarized by Doug Brown, President of Engaged2Perform, a consulting company in Waterloo, Canada, who said, “If senior leadership doesn’t buy in or doesn’t understand engagement, the company isn’t likely to have engagement polices… even top corporate executives who are aware of engagement practices aren’t always aware of the financial return they can deliver.”

Finally, possibly Costco’s Jim Sinegal summed it up best when he said,  “Culture is not the most important thing, it’s the only thing”

An Engaged Workforce: It’s Not About What They Get!

The topics of “enterprise engagement” and “employee engagement” continue to be front-and-center in many business circles, with senior managers continually looking for better ways to:

  • engagement4Improve the customer experience
  • Increase workforce productivity
  • Reduce “turnover” among both groups

As many have found, these three objectives are intertwined; and a consistently emerging principle indicates it is not possible to achieve one without the other, over time.

Consider a few facts…

First, the findings of numerous studies repeatedly indicate that employee engagement goes beyond simply being “happy” and a happy workforce is not necessarily a more productive workforce.

Similarly, loyal customers are more than simply happy customers. They are engaged; they trust and respect the suppliers to whom they are loyal, just as engaged employees trust and respect their employers. Stated a different way, and as published in a 2011 BlessingWhite report, “Engaged employees stay for what they give;  the disengaged stay for what they get.”

Engaged customers enjoy patronizing and are loyal to an organization that provides value, and engaged employees enjoy working in and remain loyal to an organization that is value-added – an organization that is successful and an organization in which they themselves feel successful; an organization in which they feel valued.

Engaged customers willingly spread a positive word-of-mouth story; and engaged employees make a consistently strong discretionary effort to refer others as potential candidates for employment and to refer others as potential customers.

As the “ripple effect” of engaging employees, increasing productivity, and reducing turnover spills-over into engaging customers, it’s important for senior managers to not only recognize this relationship, but to also proactively promote it by developing and maintaining a culture of continuous improvement in which the workforce is a vital component of success; a culture in which employees have a stake and a say in improving both the work  and the workplace.


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.

Read more…