What is a Culture of Continuous Improvement?
Great businesses are always looking to improve. In a continuous improvement culture, people at every level of their business are looking for improvements every day. Based on the Japanese concept of Kaizen or “change for the better”, continuous improvement is a behavioural mindset that is learned by routinely looking for improvement.
It is not an event or a program. As the learned behaviour becomes a habit a continuous improvement culture is formed, and leaders and team members have the skills, empowerment, and motivation to solve the problems that occur every day in business.
Where Does the Idea of Continuous Improvement Come From?
The idea of continuous improvement was popularised from Japan by improvement experts like W. Edwards Deming in the 1980’s. Deming promoted Shewhart’s Plan Do Study Act cycle developed in the 1930’s for new product implementation During a session with Toyota managers in the 1950’s the cycle was simplified, and Toyota adopted the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle.
Total Quality Management focused on eliminating variation to continuously improve quality and operational performance. TQM provided a great set of tools that were later incorporated in to Six Sigma. However, the introduction of Lean Thinking based on the Toyota Production System in the 1990s provided a complete, whole of business approach to creating a continuous improvement culture.
How Do You Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement?
Continuous improvement behaviour is learned by repetitively challenging the existing process. This willingness to always challenge and seek improvement is created through focused leadership and implementation systems. This results in a culture of continuous improvement underpinned by mutual trust and respect. Traditional barriers to improvement such as unsupportive leadership behaviours need to be actively overcome. TXM’s Lean Daily Leadership Process is a framework to achieve a Continuous Improvement culture.
Creating a culture of continuous improvement is about changing everyone’s beliefs and behaviours about improvement and providing structures and systems to reinforce the new behaviours. For a culture of continuous improvement to exist, all team members need to believe that the business can be improved, that they are empowered to make improvements and they are encouraged to do so.
In many businesses front line employees are discouraged from making improvements by leaders who don’t listen or who don’t support team members’ ideas. In this environment, team members will stop making suggestions for improvement. Lean thinking provides the tools to change this culture.
The Elements of a Successful Continuous Improvement Program
For continuous improvement to be sustained it needs to be part of the fundamental DNA of the business, not just a program. However, creating this needs several elements:
- Clear leadership vision and support across all functions.
- Clearly defined leadership expectation that everyone will make improvements, so it becomes a habit throughout the business.
- Dedicated internal resources to support leaders and teams to apply the PDCA thinking.
- Experienced expert support to help provide the leaders the knowledge and confidence to support their teams in new ways working
- Expert support to establish the systems and processes necessary to support continuous improvement.
- Expert support to coach leaders to develop the right behaviours to foster the environment of mutual trust and respect required to sustain continuous improvement.
- Effective mechanisms to provide leaders and teams with timely and meaningful feedback on performance and the improvements they are achieving.
- Solutions that are customised for your business, culture, and industry.
How Can the TXM Lean Daily Leadership Process Help?
In many businesses front line employees are discouraged from making improvements by leaders who don’t listen or who don’t support team members’ ideas. In this environment, team members will stop making suggestions for improvement. Lean thinking provides to tools to change this culture.
The TXM Lean Daily Leadership Process (LDLP) establishes tools and behaviours that enables a culture of continuous improvement built on mutual trust and respect to be developed. The process includes, for example, daily communication where teams get feedback on performance and can suggest ways to improve. Simple problem solving and root cause analysis techniques can be taught to all team members and enable teams to act themselves overcoming their own problems. Other Lean Methodologies empower teams to make improvements to their own workplace.
How Can TXM Help Develop a Culture of Continuous Improvement in Your Business?
TXM has decades of experience working with hundreds of companies around the world to create a continuous improvement culture. Our consultants have all worked with leading global companies that have already achieved that culture. Talk to our team about how we can work with you to develop a culture of continuous improvement in your business.