Just like a pool of water can become stagnant when the water doesn’t flow, business processes are often stagnate without continuous improvement. Change and improvement are essential for business growth. In this article we’ll discuss some steps you can take that will help you develop strategies for productive continuous improvement.
What is continuous improvement?
Continuous improvement is a process businesses follow to identify and address areas that may need improvement. The goal is to reduce waste, streamline processes, and increase efficiency so you can deliver more value to your customers.
Continuous improvement comes from the Japanese concept of “Kaizen,” which basically means “change for better.” It is based on the belief that there is always room for improvement. “Kaizen” encourages you to look for ways to improve processes that already work well and run smoothly.
And importantly, continuous improvement is also based on the belief that ideas for improvement can come from everybody in an organization regardless of job title, pay grade, or role.
How do you promote a continuous improvement culture in the workplace?
Successful companies understand that improvements can always be made. Well-planned and implemented improvements can lead to:
- Happy customers and increased satisfaction
- Employee job satisfaction and increased morale
- High-quality products delivered on a faster release schedule
- Consistent compliance with industry standards
- Efficient collaborative and agile work environments
- Increased customer loyalty
- Bigger profits
Creating a workplace culture that embraces continuous improvement seems like it should be easy, right? But it’s not always.
The problem is that people are generally resistant to change. Most of us are creatures of habit, and people simply don’t like to be told what to do.
With that in mind, you can promote a continuous improvement culture by ensuring that every member of an organization has the opportunity to share ideas for possible improvements. When everybody has a say, you’ll increase likelihood for team buy-in.
Suggestions for developing a continuous improvement process
There is not a single, definitive step-by-step process that will help you to achieve continuous quality improvement. You’ll have to experiment and find out what works for you and your team. Here are some suggestions to consider:
Get everybody involved
As previously mentioned, continuous improvement should include everybody. Individuals should feel encouraged to identify possible problem areas, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Mitigating small problems will often prevent big problems down the road. Whether or not a continuous improvement culture is successful depends on everyone’s participation—from the top down.
Set and communicate clear goals
Before implementing a feature or improvement, you should have an idea of what you want it to do. Will it satisfy a customer's needs? Will it fix a bottleneck in your current process?
When you understand what a proposed improvement will do and how it fits within your company’s overall vision, it’s easier to set worthwhile goals for continuous improvement.
Have a plan
To reach these goals, you’ll need a plan. A plan details how you will achieve your goals in the most efficient way.
When making a plan, you’ll want to analyze the current market, examine competitors, consult with customers, identify strengths, and search for ways to improve that could give you an edge over the competition.
If your plan identifies an improvement like adding a new feature, you should also include estimates about resources needed, budget, and the amount of time it will take to make the improvement.
Start with small changes
Trying to implement a big change all at once may increase pushback from your team, which could decrease productivity and result in unhappy customers.
A better approach is to make small improvements toward goal achievement. You’re likely to get faster buy-in and better cooperation from your team, and it will provide you with an opportunitiy to focus on the details so nothing important is missed.
Lead by example
If leadership isn’t committed to making the change, then others won’t feel inclined to adopt the change either. Rather than telling your employees what to do, show them what to do and demonstrate your commitment to the change. Your staff will likely follow your lead.
Recognize and celebrate successes
When a change results in measurable improvement, it’s important to recognize the success. This lets the team know that their efforts are worthwhile and encourages them to continue identifying more opportunities for improvement, resulting in a more effective organization over time.
Make sure everybody understands their responsibilities
Businesses are only efficient when everyone involved understands their responsibilities and roles, and how they fit into the overall organization. Drawing process maps to represent specific steps, task owners, and timelines is often helpful for team members to visualize how their work affects the bottom line.
Regularly review team progress and improvement implementation
You’ll need to monitor processes after improvements have been implemented to ensure that everything is working as expected. Even if everything is going smoothly, you should still look for ways to improve processes, since continuous improvement relies on the belief that there is always room for improvement.
A flowchart gives you a visual overview of processes, making it easier to identify areas that need improvement throughout the lifespan of a project. Use a virtual whiteboard like Lucidspark to make changes in real time, so your flowchart always represents the current workflows.
How Lucidspark can help you to promote a culture of continuous improvement
Lucidspark is a virtual whiteboard that brings distributed teams together at any time from any location. With Lucidspark, team members can all work on the same document virtually, maximizing collaborative synergy.
Lucidspark is optimized to easily organize and prioritize team ideas using a variety of tools. For example, you can ask your team to submit ideas using sticky notes directly on the virtual board. Then you can use the grouping features to intuitively organize similar ideas using tabs, labels, or colors. Or, create a Lucidspark prioritization matrix to determine which ideas are the best. Use collaborative voting tools to quickly come to a team consensus.
Lucidspark helps you easily document your projects from ideation to completion, supercharging your collaboration and strengthening your team’s culture of continuous improvement overall.
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