Continuous Improvement is the on-going attempt to improve products, services and processes by making small, incremental improvements within a business. It is a belief that these significant matters will consolidate into a major change over a period of time and it is much about strategies (i.e. specific improvements) as it is all about changing the culture of the entity to concentrate on opportunities for improvement rather than problems.
Essential factors for continuous successful improvement programs are described below:
1. Leadership that walks the talk
The assistance given by the organization’s leadership team is generally stated as the number one factor for the glory of an uninteruptted major initiative. Leaders should display behaviours that not only reveal support for the initiative but also the behaviours that they wish all employees to reproduce. It finally comes down to guidance and support within the organisation to make this dramatic change. If there is no proper support for a continuous improvement program to be executed, then the team charged with implementing it will be operating on what will be, in effect, a series of isolated efforts.
2. A focus on “fire prevention” rather than “fire fighting”
No seperate, team or company can perform change if they don’t have the time or mental capacity to do so. Often there is a problems that need fixing that are creating a series of “fires” that regularly distract managers from resolving the major cause of their difficulties. Everyone constantly have to work harder, rather than smarter. It is a imperfect activity where few companies celebrate and reward those employees and managers who put out the most fires, which removes incentive to prevent the fires in the first place.
3. Constancy of purpose
In Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s “14 points” he called for the “constancy of purpose for continual improvement of products and service to society.” This endless, relentless focus on improvement is a key for maintaining and undergoing process improvements in the long run. Changes need to maintain momentum to ensure the changes are not forgotten and don’t grind to a halt through exhausion or resistance. Successful continuous improvement programs understand that improvement is not merely a management initiative – a so-called “flavour of the month” – but a long-term practice that needs to pervade everything an organization does.
4. Shift to long term mind-set
Managers are often focused on whether they’re going to face their monthly or quarterly objectives and it can unfavourable to prioritize improvements that will only make an influence over a longer period of time. As a result, continuous improvement is as much about mind-set as it is about actions. The company needs to look at the long-term effects of the work it is doing and understand that a quarterly dip in performance can be allowed if it means that in the long run, the company is in a better position - both financially and in terms of the company’s capability to deliver magnificent products and services to its customers.
The clue for successful continuous improvement is in its name. It must be continuous so that opportunities for growth can be highlighted, improvement made and measured and evaluated.
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