Developing a culture of continuous improvement (CI) is one way that top-performing companies differentiate from their peers by enabling them to grow revenues and drive cost out of their business long after others have plateaued. However, creating sustainable continuous improvement is a significant challenge for organizations of all sizes irrespective of where they stand in their CI journey.
For example, early in your organization’s CI journey there are likely to be challenges in aligning everyone on your continuous improvement approach. As you progress in your journey, you will need to deal with resistance to change issues as you attempt to break old habits and introduce new work practices and behaviors. Finally, perhaps the most challenging aspect of creating a sustainable continuous improvement culture involves implementing the rituals, routines, and managing processes required to ensure that improving the business continues to be a top of mind issue for the workforce.
All of that being said, before your organization can generate meaningful traction in its continuous improvement efforts, you will need to develop and communicate your CI model. First, let’s define the term: a continuous improvement model refers to the set of principles, methods, tools, and best practices that will serve as the foundation for your organization’s continuous improvement journey. There are numerous examples of CI models that can be used as the basis for developing your organization’s specific model, including the Toyota Production System “House,” the Danaher Business System, and the Shingo Model. In fact, one of EON’s core service offerings is helping clients to build and deploy the CI model that makes the most sense for them based on their industry, operational maturity, and capacity to drive change.
Our firm belief is that having a CI model is critical to the success of your CI journey because the model defines in clear terms what the organization means by the term “continuous improvement.” However, once your organization has developed a CI model that meets your needs, there’s another question: how will you communicate that model to the workforce so they can understand, internalize, and ultimately adopt it as the new way of doing business?
Here are a few suggestions to help you communicate your CI model throughout your organization:
1: Consider the Presentation
While the substance of your CI model is the most critical aspect of its effectiveness in driving change, the way the model is presented is critical to how easy it is for the workforce to understand it. For our clients, we’ve developed a simple “placemat” format that makes it easy to organize the best practices embedded within the model into common themes or workflows, such as in the example shown below. This particular model is has four major workflows - Leadership, Safety & Daily Operations, Project Execution, and Lean Basics. Each of the boxes - we call them toolkits because they contain pre-defined instructional content, implementation resources, and assessment criteria - represents one best practice within an assigned workflow.
Sample CI Model Placemat
2: Consider the Terminology
The terminology used to develop and communicate your CI model is critical. Simply put, we in the continuous improvement world tend to fall in love with the industry-specific terminology and jargon associated with CI, which is fine when we’re discussing these matters with other people who have a background in CI. However, overuse of this terminology when communicating your CI model to the broader workforce can be an impediment to adoption.
The figure below contains an example of a CI model that we developed for our healthcare clients. This model was specifically designed to position CI as a vehicle to improve specific aspects of a healthcare provider’s business. For example, a well-known Lean practice, such as value stream analysis, is brought into the model within the toolkits to which it should be applied, like ED Throughput or Patient Discharge. Similarly, 5S is addressed in toolkits like Supply Storage Room Standardization. The model doesn’t remove all references to CI-specific terms, for example the word “Gemba” is used in one toolkit, but the placemat was clearly designed to be easily understood by someone who understands healthcare even if he/she has no real background in CI.
Sample CI Model Placemat for Healthcare Providers
3: Consider the Audience
When it comes to communication and messaging around your CI model, there really isn’t a “one size fits all” approach. Rather, the messaging needs to be targeted to the audience in order to pay particular attention to their questions and concerns. For example, when socializing leadership to the model, it’s important to stress how the model will be used to help them achieve critical business objectives that they are accountable to deliver. In other words, leaders are often asking the question, will this continuous improvement model add value or complexity to my life and the life of my team? Your ability to answer that question to their satisfaction will be a big determinate of their support for the work you’ll be doing in the business.
On the other hand, when communicating the model to front line work teams, it’s important to make the connection between this model and specific work-related pain points or frustrations. For example, how will visual boards and shift starter meetings solve the problem of poor shift to shift communication? How will value stream analysis and structured problem solving address a sticky process variability issue that’s out of spec product? How will 5S make it more likely that clinicians will find needed tools and supplies quickly with minimal hassle?
If you need help creating an easy way to distribute your CI model playbook throughout your organization, or to track your key performance indicators (KPIs) so you can measure the success of your continuous improvement efforts, contact the EON team today!
The EON platform has been designed from the ground up to help organizations align their OpEx efforts with their business strategies, implement projects, and implement best practices through playbooks. Get started on the path to operational excellence with EON’s cloud-based OpEx platform now!