While it originated in large-scale manufacturing, continuous improvement principles now reach into virtually every industry. Businesses are always looking to drive additional value to customers and improve efficiency.
Continuous improvement programs can produce big results and have a significant impact on your bottom line, but they can also be costly and disruptive.
For this reason, many businesses shy away from engaging in full-scale continuous improvement programs and prefer to adopt incremental approaches that minimize disruption while still providing gains. In this post, we want to provide four tips for getting process optimization started and sustained in your business.
Start with the Easiest Business Improvement Opportunity
While this approach may seem obvious, many businesses don’t know where to begin with continuous improvement. Leaders in the company may be familiar with lean or agile management approaches, but where do you start? This is especially true in environments that have large interactive and complex processes.
Businesses should start with the optimization opportunities that require the smallest effort but can yield big results. Look for processes that haven’t been modernized in a long time or where you see a lot of inefficiencies. In these cases, even the smallest optimizations can get you started on your way.
Engage Your Entire Team
Continuous improvement programs are most successful where they are fully embedded within company culture, but this type of cultural change within an organization doesn’t happen overnight. Because of how long it can take, the efforts need to be sustained across the team, which means that you need to engage everyone in your team. Getting people bought into changing processes, lean, agile, or other operations management approaches can be difficult – people are resistant to change.
But, if you show them the benefits of the change, and frame it so that it speaks directly to them, then you’ll have more success.
Show your team members where there are inefficiencies and how those inefficiencies specifically impact their job and role.
- Where are people frustrated?
- What tasks are annoying, redundant, or difficult to complete because of inefficiencies?
- How would these people benefit from process optimization?
Getting everyone involved early will help you create sustainable cultural change within the organization.
Embrace the Continuous Nature of Continuous Improvement
Continuous improvement is ongoing. Processes should never be considered fully optimized – there’s always room for more improvement, and there’s always going to be new processes or other changes that need to be considered. Avoid going into process optimization with an idea of what the outcome should look like – start by understanding the inefficiencies, how and why the process functions, and how it can be improved.
Continuous improvement is really all about incremental gains.
Companies that engage in radical change too quickly often find that it’s unsustainable. By focusing on smaller improvements on a continuous basis, you’ll be able to make more sustainable impacts over time.
Let Others Lead
Many times, Continuous improvement leaders in companies are the experts and they want to lead the entire process. While elements of this are true, you need to let everyone in your company engage with process optimization, regardless of their title or function. Most often, the individuals performing the function and working through the process are the best suited to give you feedback on what works and what doesn’t. They’ll also be able to identify how process changes will impact them and give you perspective on how a process change will operate in a live environment.
By letting others lead the process with you, you’ll be able to gain greater insight into the process you’re trying to optimize, which will give you a better ability to improve the process and reduce the chance of disruption.
Resources for Continuous Improvement
Canadian businesses have access to a number of funding programs that can support the implementation of a continuous improvement initiative. If you’re engaging with a third party, providing training across your team, or purchasing new systems to help manage processes, you may be able to access training grants to help offset the costs and increase the return on your investment.
To learn more about government funding programs to support workforce development, please register for an upcoming Hiring and Training Grants webinar.
These free government funding sessions will cover trends in government funding programs, identify specific grants and incentives worth applying for, and explain how to optimize the funding identification and application process.