How would you define continuous improvement?
Some might say it’s the seamless flow of small changes within a business. They would be correct.
In any case, it can, and should be your culture.
A culture of continuous improvement diverges from the status quo and the “doing things the way they have always been done” phenomenon.
Continuous improvement is what drives your business from its current state to its future state. You just have to let it take the wheel.
Continuous improvement is what drives your business from its current state to its future state. You just have to let it take the wheel. Click To Tweet
Does your current culture reflect a culture of continuous improvement?
The implementation of this culture starts from the top. The leadership team must create it. It will permeate through the organization and eventually every business unit will make decisions in the name of continuous improvement.
All staff members and stakeholders must have a desire and commitment for the culture, or else it won’t be fully executed and successful.
Everyone has a choice to be a part of this culture and make it great, and if they don’t, they aren’t the fit you are looking for.
Now that everyone has the desire to live this culture out, how can its effects be maximized?
Start with value stream mapping.
Value stream mapping is the documentation of the steps a product or services goes through, from the time it was inquired about from a customer, to the time it’s delivered.
It is also used to find hidden inefficiencies that can be costing your business. These inefficiencies can occur when the customer calls your business for the first time to the time they receive their order. Lost customers, wasted time on the production floor, or non-essential administrative work are all examples of the effects of inefficiencies within a business.
So, how do you find these hidden inefficiencies? Ask your employees.
This is again, why having every single employee committed to this culture is crucial. The “doing things the way they have always been done” mindset starts to make you, and your staff, blind toward inefficiencies within your business. Even if you don’t realize you operate by that rule, it can still be present.
Businesses can map out their current value stream, or their workflow, and make changes based off realized inefficiencies.
The first step in this process is by “stapling” yourself to an order. Take yourself on the same journey that the order goes through, from the time the customer inquires about ordering it, to when they receive the finalized product or service. Take note of where you go, what you do, and how long you are there.
After the journey, formalize your notes by writing down what your current value stream is on something big, like a white board.
Tip: write each step on a Post-it so it can be easily moved to another spot so if you make a mistake while drawing the value stream. Stick the Post-it on the board.
Next, have your staff take part in an exercise to identify inefficiencies within the current state of the value stream to get to an ideal future state.
It’s essential to make sure your employees understand your value stream. If they do not, you will not get the educated or informed feedback needed to improve.
To do this, bring key stakeholders into the area where the value stream is located. Have them find where their work is incorporated and help them to see how it impacts the rest of the workflow. When they know what the value stream is, they will have a better understanding on how the entire business operates.
Encourage them to give their opinion on what works well, and what can be better. Have staff take notes on what can be improved when they get back to work. Not only will leaders be getting input from those who live in the value stream, but the employees will feel that they are valued.
Lastly, when you get that input, think carefully about what would happen if a step or process was removed. Even if the employee thinks it’s not essential, it still may be needed. Talk this over with other leaders. Always remember to avoid the status quo.
Remember, the purpose of continuous improvement is to make it your culture and the value stream mapping creates awareness for it. Always improve the things that make up your business. This will help eliminate more waste, empower employees, reduce frustration, and provide a great place to work.
Always improve the things that make up your business. This will help eliminate more waste, empower employees, reduce frustration, and provide a great place to work. Click To Tweet
In other words, use your employees to make this culture live. They will turn your business into a great place to work.
Don’t do this exercise once, do it often.
Do it now.
More tips on continuous improvement, and building a culture are available in STUCK Co-founder, Jerry Jendusa‘s, book Get Unstuck. Included are relatable anecdotes from Jerry Jendusa, who has gone on the journey from growing a start-up to an international 100M company.