3(ish) Minute Moment: Is Your Continuous Improvement Really Continuous? | Propel Change
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3(ish) Minute Moment: Is Your Continuous Improvement Really Continuous?

3(ish) Minute Moment: Is Your Continuous Improvement Really Continuous?

Is your continuous improvement really continuous?

In this week’s video, I want to share with you our secret formula for a continuous improvement program you can actually continue.


So I was talking with Steve, who’s a VP of Operations. We were having a cup of coffee, and he was telling me all about his continuous improvement woes.

Some of the things that he was complaining about is what I hear a lot.

“First of all, we’re spending tons of money on consultants. We’re doing a few projects, but not that many, because our people who are on the projects, they don’t have a lot of time.

“Sometimes projects get canceled because our resources get pulled to other things. It’s really difficult. It just doesn’t seem like it’s working very well.”

So I want to tell you a little bit about our secret formula for our continuous improvement program.

Get Leadership Buy-In

The very first thing we do is get leadership buy-in and show them how to be visible in the project, which is we ask them to be a coach in the project and remove barriers when people are having trouble.

Teach Your Employees to Train

Second, you have to be careful that you have consultants that wanna make you their career.

So in our secret formula, what we do to get around that is we teach a lot of people how to train it, and then your own employees can go in and train it in your company.

Front-Line Involvement

Third, you want front-line involvement.

What we find is sometimes managers are on these projects. We have a manager on the project, they don’t know everything about what happens. As a result, even though they may have more flexible time, they’re not necessarily the best person to figure out what to do because they don’t know everything.

Small Projects

Another item that we stress is small projects.

If you have frontline people and they’re doing great big projects, first of all, they don’t like it. That’s not fun for them. They usually are task-based people. Task-based people like projects.

We say, “Make sure it can be completed once it’s implemented somewhere between one hour and two weeks.”

So I’m talking small projects.

It gives those people a way to learn and then to actually implement.

If there’s a risk issue, it’s not going to be on this project. They’re very low risk.

Learn Then Apply

The next thing we do is we teach them something; then they immediately apply it.

It’s not a boot camp where for five days you go in, you learn everything there is, you go back to your office, and you go, “Ah, I’m not really sure “what I’m gonna do about this.”

Not that those are bad, but we also know that from an adult learning perspective, the second I learn something, if I can use it right then on my projects in my organization, it makes a world of difference.

Teach Cost Savings

One of the places that make the most difference is if you teach people how to figure out what the cost savings are.

It’s amazing how quickly that project becomes theirs.

When you teach them how to calculate what the direct and indirect savings, what’s ringing the cash register, and then also what kind of things are saving us time so that we can do things that we weren’t able to do before? It makes a huge difference in their buy-in.

Accountability for Completion

Another item is accountability for completion.

The number of times that I’ve heard, “We’ve never completed a project here at this organization,” astounds me.

So when you have accountability for getting projects completed, and not only that, saying, “And what’s your next project?”, that gets people in the mindset of continuous improvement really is continuous.

Celebrate Success

Last, make sure that you have celebrations because when you celebrate success, it gives people this little oomph that they need to do one more project, and they find it fun.

The number of times that I have heard, “I didn’t think this would be fun, and now I look forward to what my next project is,” is amazing.

So if you have a continuous improvement program and it’s really not doing what you think it should be, ask some questions.

1. Is your leadership engaged?

Because if your leadership isn’t engaged, you’re never going to get where you want to go.

Are they visibly engaged?

Are they helping people to make sure that they know what they’re supposed to be doing?

2. Are all of your projects linked to your company goals?

Because if they’re not, I will guarantee you that some of those projects are going away, which then leads to the syndrome of, “Hey, we’ve never actually completed a project around here.”

3. Are the right people on the projects?

The way you resource projects has a lot to do with how successful they are. If you have a bunch of leaders completing a project that should be frontline people because the leaders want the experience doing it, you’re gonna not get the same results. Make sure you bring those frontline people in on the projects.

4. Is there accountability?

Do you have the right accountability in place? Are you holding people responsible for completing a project?

I had a client one time that said to somebody, “No, you have to get this done by this time.”

It was one of the continuous improvement projects.

And the employee said, “Yeah, but I’m really busy.”

My client said, “I need your commitment that you will get it done.” And just because of that, I had leadership engagement, projects linked to the company goals, the right people on it, and accountability.

Keep Continuous Improvement Continuous

Make sure you’re celebrating. And make sure most of all that the efforts that you put into your continuous improvement program, you actually can continue.

There’s a lot of great continuous improvement programs out there and every one of them could work, but what’s really key is to make sure you have the leadership involvement, you stay the course and the accountability is there.