In Part I, I identified 5 things you need to do to drive Continuous Improvement. In this article, we show how business strategy should drive continuous improvement programs and not the other way around. The 5 things were:
- Align continuous improvement with strategic objectives
- Don’t overdo process excellence at outset; this is an evolutionary process
- Integrate continuous improvement into a culture of strategic execution
- Blend the best practices from the different methodologies
- Focus on data, not emotions
Continuous Improvement has matured into adulthood and as it has matured, it has lost the beauty of its simplicity and become incredibly complex. Noted practitioners have suggested that we rethink Continuous Improvement because it is stifling innovation and performance in some companies (GE, 3M, Motorola) that are the hallmarks of the Continuous Improvement process. My view is that Continuous Improvement is not to blame. How is it possible that organizations focused on continuously improving what they do could stifle anything? What has happened in these companies is that the management teams have not focused their Continuous Improvement activities on the right strategies and objectives. Continuous Improvement can happen without an overarching strategy and objectives, but the result is what we call Anti-Strategy. (You can read our multi-part series on Anti-Strategy here.)
There isn’t a middle market company we have worked with that hasn’t realized significant top and bottom line performance gains when management has aligned the organization, business processes and IT systems to its strategic objectives and taken a systematic approach to leveraging the intersection of people, process and technology via a well planned and executed Continuous Improvement program.
The first step in clarifying the objectives for Continuous Improvement is identify the strategic and operating gaps between the current state and the future state. Functional and cross functional teams will then need to pick the best Continuous Improvement tools for the job of closing those gaps across a business wide improvement roadmap. DMAIC, Kaizen, Value Stream Mapping, Business Process Re-engineering, KPI, Agile Frameworks, Root Cause Analysis, etc. are some of the core tools used in Continuous Improvement. Each one of these tools has a roll and we will discuss that in part 5 of this series, but you can get some insight in a recent article we wrote: Utilizing Continuous Improvement Tools at the Business Level.
Continuous Improvement programs that are in place for the sake of checking the box will do more harm than good. We have also seen many established programs lose their way. The good news is that it is very easy to get a program pointed in the right direction. Starting a new program will take some work and planning, but the reward will be years of double digit improvements to the top and bottom line and if done properly, will not hinder company performance… It will only accelerate it.
Group50 specializes in designing Continuous Improvement programs for middle market companies. We have a series of assessments and workshops that we utilize to create a Continuous Improvement roadmap and transfer the required skills to people inside client organizations. Some of these are shown below:
- Continuous Improvement Assessment
- Organizational Assessment
- Making the Case for a Continuous Improvement Initiative
- Planning and Implementation
- Sustaining a Continuous Improvement Program
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About the Author: Jim Gitney is the CEO and Founder of Group50® Consulting, a 13 year old consulting firm focused on working with middle market companies to significantly improve their productivity by leveraging people, process and technology as part of a company’s strategic plan. He was a member of GE’s Quality Council, part of the team that developed and implemented Black & Decker’s Total Quality Initiative, has led or participated in over 125 Kaizen events and is considered an expert in Continuous Improvement. Group50 consists of consultants who have spent their careers in corporate America learning how to optimize businesses, processes and organizations. #jimgitney, #continuousimprovement, #CEO, #Leanbusiness, #Sixsigma, #CI, #Strategicplan, #group50
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