Adopting continuous improvement (CI) processes can give organizations a competitive edge. That’s according to global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
Large organizations may integrate CI slowly because of the sheer number of departments and inflexibility due to bureaucracy and rules. However, using CI software can accelerate the process while ensuring all departments are on the same page.
Read on to learn how you can use continuous improvement tools in your organization to boost performance, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction.
1. Start with a pilot.
Conduct a pilot before the organization-wide implementation of the continuous improvement solution.
A pilot will unveil wins, shortcomings, and roadblocks in the process. And the CI management can then make changes to ensure that large-scale adoption of the program will be a success.
To get a feel of what the CI process will do for the organization, choose teams that stand to gain the most from continuous improvement.
Document every step of the implementation process during the pilot. Then use the feedback to plan for the larger-scale CI implementation.
2. Identify opportunities for improvement.
The CI team can use different ways to identify areas for improvement. They can:
- Use the requester tools in the CI software to request employees and agents for improvement submissions.
- Ask performance management, process management, and IT development teams for insights.
- Use platform reports and performance analytics.
- Assess process KPIs.
- Review audit test failures and risk registers.
- Review problem reports.
- Review service reports and change management reports for trends.
3. Make it easy for employees to log improvement ideas.
Desired continuous improvement results come when everyone in the organization participates in bettering operations. Companies can make this process successful by making it easy for all employees and agents to submit improvement ideas.
The frontline team knows first-hand what challenges clients face and the solutions they seek from the company. Production line employees know what’s needed to boost productivity.
The supply chain management team has a few suggestions for streamlining operations.
And likewise for every department.
As experts in their roles, individual employees are in the best position to identify areas for improvement in their teams. Ensure employees can access the CI software and navigate the embedded features and tools.
There should be a straightforward way for employees to get help when stuck. Otherwise, they may stop interacting with the software if they can’t maneuver around it and there’s no one to guide them.
The ideal continuous improvement solution has a built-in coaching program. Through this tool, CI coordinators can provide real-time coaching to employees.
This in-process coaching keeps their productivity high. It also guarantees that the improvement process does not stall.
4. Always start with high-benefit improvement opportunities.
This process requires the CI team to sift through all the improvement opportunities to identify the most beneficial.
In large organizations, the number of improvement areas can be high as employees identify gaps and problem areas. Choosing which opportunities to focus on can be challenging for the team.
Most continual improvement solutions have an analytics feature that ranks the opportunity logs. Using this tool, the CI department chooses the most valuable items for implementation.
But how does the software choose the ranking criteria? Different software may use various markers to grade opportunity logs. But it boils down to these three main ones:
- Value they offer.
- How urgent they are?
Improvement opportunities that offer the most benefits get priority, whether that’s:
- Improved productivity.
- Improved quality.
- Reduced lead time.
- Or any other metric the organization deems important.
Likewise, the most urgent entries go to the top of the list. And, of course, it helps if they are small-budget projects.
Picking what to work on first may not be a black-and-white affair, even though the sorted list makes it easier. The CI manager should use their discretion to decide which opportunity to implement first.
For example, they may choose a resource-intensive initiative over a more cost-effective one because it has a higher ROI. So it’ll be more profitable.
Or they may choose an entry that scores highly in urgency because it’ll help remove the bottleneck that affects service delivery.
The result? Faster processes.
5. Set regular reviews of the CI program.
Continuous improvement coordinators should have a governance system in place. Effective governance allows the team to track implementation and post-implementation progress.
Carry out regular reviews during this period to assess what’s working and what may have fallen by the wayside.
The scope of the review should have thresholds for:
- Task progress during project initiation.
- When an initiative becomes a fully-managed project.
- When outcomes translate to initiative success.
This constant monitoring allows the CI team to track the continuous improvement journey and have a more realistic measure of KPIs.
With proper execution, CI software makes continuous improvement solutions accessible to every employee and gives management an easy way to track changes.
Large organizations can get the most out of CI tools by:
- Starting small.
- Making everyone in the organization a stakeholder in the CI process.
- Providing a direct way for employees to post improvement ideas.
- Using different techniques to identify areas for improvement.
- Implementing high-benefit improvements first.