In the introduction, I identified 5 things you need to do to drive continuous improvement. They are:
- 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
In this article, we show how business strategy should drive continuous improvement programs and not the other way around. 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 company we have worked with that hasn’t realized significant top and bottom line performance gains when management has aligned the organization to its strategic objectives. They accomplished this through our systematic approach to strategic planning, change management and implementation as outlined in our Business Hierarchy of Needs®. They utilized a well planned and executed Continuous Improvement program for implementation.
The first step in clarifying the objectives for continuous improvement is to 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 companywide 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 a Continuous Improvement program. 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 our clients. We start with an assessment of the company’s current state and develop a continuous improvement roadmap. We then take leadership teams through a series of workshops to justify and implement their unique Continuous Improvement program. The assessments and workshops shown below are part of Group50’s Company Physical® which consists of over 50 assessments and workshops:
- Continuous Improvement Assessment
- Organizational Assessment
- Making The Case For A Continuous Improvement Initiative
- Planning And Implementing A Continuous Improvement Program
- Sustaining A Continuous Improvement Program
Check out all articles on Driving Continuous Improvement:
- Five Things You Need To Do To Drive Continuous Improvement – Introduction
- Part I – Five Things You Need To Do To Drive Continuous Improvement – Alignment To Strategy
- Part II – Five Things You Need To Do To Drive Continuous Improvement – Do Not Overdue At The Outset
- Part III – Five Things You Need To Do To Drive Continuous Improvement – Creating A Culture Of Strategic Execution
- Part IV – Five Things You Need To Do To Drive Continuous Improvement – Best Practices
- Part V – Five Things You Need To Do To Drive Continuous Improvement – Tools And Data
- Utilizing Continuous Improvement Tools At The Business Level
- Creating the Business Case For A Continuous Improvement Program Workshop
- Additional articles on Continuous Improvement in Group50’s blog
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About the Author: Jim Gitney, CEO and Founder, started Group50® Consulting in 2004 with the focus of working with companies to significantly improve their performance by leveraging people, process and technology as part of a company’s strategic plan. In 2013, he created Group50’s Business Hierarchy of Needs® change management framework, a fundamental operating guide to senior leadership teams, and was granted a trademark in 2015. He has held C-suite and Board positions in large and small manufacturing companies. He was a member of GE’s Quality Council, part of the team that developed and implemented Black & Decker’s global Total Quality Management (TQM) program, has led or participated in over 125 Kaizen events and is considered a subject matter expert in Continuous Improvement. Group50® consists of consultants from every functional discipline who have spent their careers in corporate America developing strategic plans and rolling up their shirt sleeves to get it done.
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