Improvements Accelerate Progress

Bob Schultek Author of
The Gauntlet

Building enduring customer relationships mandates that your business consistently creates value for customers. This involves more than introducing new products or delivering exceptional serviceexperiences. Increasingly, this value emerges from your efforts to improve the efficiency, responsiveness and agility of your business. 

Continuous improvement accelerates your progress and strengthens the sustainability of your business. In addition to the expected benefits of greater customer loyalty, increased profitability and more revenue, pursuing improvement expands your capacity and enables your people to gain greater clarity about how your business operates and how they contribute to its progress. As a result, their confidence, pride and satisfaction grow stronger. 

Building a culture of improvement and innovation begins by nurturing curiosity. Encourage your people to ask ‘why’, to challenge widely-held assumptions and the status quo, to probe if there’s a better way. Then reward those whose improvements are validated. 

If your team’s experience with improvement projects is low, and if there’s no potential project on the horizon, then they will need your direction to identify a project in which they can get their hands dirty and learn as they go. You might proceed this way:

  • Facilitate a brainstorming session to identify the key processes most often used by the team;
  • Prioritize this list of target processes by having your team ask these questions:
  1. Can they quantify the benefits that would be gained by improving this process? For example, can time or money be saved by accelerating the process? Or, can waste, cost or inventory be reduced? Are there spots in the process where WIP inventory builds? If quantifying potential improvement benefits is not possible, then don’t invest time trying to improve this process.
  2. If capturing quantifiable data is possible, can it be monitored and recorded, for both the current process and its potentially improved version? Without this capability, your team cannot project and validate the improvement benefits necessary to justify their efforts.
  3. Can they identify the key obstacles that must be overcome, in order to secure approval and implementation of the improved process, without creating much disruption to current operations?
  4. Based on this evaluation, can the team estimate the number of days, weeks or months until the proposed improvement benefits might be realized, including the time required to develop a proposed new process, get it approved, and implement it?

Comparing the responses to these questions for the target processes will reveal the one process that should be your initial improvement project. The team will need your help with:

  • converting the quantifiable data from the language of things (hours, units, etc.) into the language of money, which will be necessary for approval;
  • mapping the current and proposed processes to identify each process step, its accountability and time utilization, plus the time consumed between each step, to identify and resolve process constraints (Hint: these will be where WIP inventory grows);
  • selling the improvement and securing approval to proceed.

These improvement initiatives will be time-consuming, but the benefits and recognition earned by your team, and you, will improve performance and create momentum for additional improvements. 

How are you inspiring and motivating your team to accelerate progress?

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