Why do we hear so many conflicting stories about how good or bad a particular improvement philosophy actually is? Whether it is Six Sigma, Lean, Kaizen, Manufacturing Excellence… success is driven not only by the philosophy and tools you choose, but also by how you implement them. It is important to embrace the right approach for the pressing issues of the business—and even more important to implement the changes well.
There are many tough choices during implementation that have to be taken, and the twin factors of engagement and involvement are critical. Overplay it and decision-making is slow and cumbersome; underplay it and you don’t have the necessary buy-in to ensure lasting organizational improvements.
Based on years of working with clients to ensure the success of training and human capital improvement programs, we have identified five principles that serve as important catalysts for change.
1. Acknowledge the Journey and Set Your Target. We need to know where we are heading in order to get on the right road. If we don’t set the targets, we could be going on forever just attempting to get started. Identifying and agreeing on a timeframe and the right Key Performance Indicators is essential.
2. Understand the Capability Gaps and Prioritize Your Needs. To do things differently, to make new things happen, quite often requires the application of different or new skills. People may already have these skills but have just not yet tapped into them. Understanding what skills are required, what skills you’ve got, and deducing from this the skills gap you have, is essential to deploying people effectively to instigate improvements.
There are different levels of seniority, capabilities and emotions which require the development of different capability development needs—one size does not fit all. Having common ways of working involves everyone understanding the roles each of us plays. We have to develop technical knowledge and expertise and ensure that how we work together is effective and efficient. Quite often the training carried out can be standard, but the coaching support provided is unique.
3: Integrate the Solutions and Make Your Processes Deliver Value. To do things differently, to make new things happen, quite often requires focusing on those processes that add the most value and integrating the thinking around the solution to remove both variation and waste. Processes need to be well-defined with clear steps and defined responsibilities. These processes can then be executed to the agreed standards and managed for accountability and continued improvement.
4. Align Expectations and Lead by Example. An integrated end-to-end process view is essential for any transformational improvement program. Aligning expectations and measures throughout the organization promotes transformation. The aim of making every day our very best day can then mean everyone gets involved—supporting one another to get things done.
Rule 5. Coach for Exceptionally High Performance. The external environment is unforgiving. There are new players entering the market. New regulations to comply with and constant technological advances that exceed most people’s imaginations. The mantra of continuous improvement has been with us for years, however getting the final ounces of improvement requires dedication and focus. Ensuring that there is an independent eye, a critical challenging observer, is essential to ongoing development.
The five catalysts outlined above need to be at the heart of any transformational improvement plan. While it is important to start off on the right foot, at any point during the implementation of an initiative, consider taking a step back and reviewing these key principles and take the actions needed to support your investment in change.
Other Tips from Kepner-Tregoe
Founded in 1958, and based on ground-breaking research regarding how people think, solve problems and make decisions, Kepner-Tregoe provides a unique combination of training and consulting services to improve quality and effectiveness while reducing overall costs. The KT methodology is used at every level of client organizations: to implement strategy, achieve continuous improvement, increase customer satisfaction, and drive effective issue resolution throughout the organization.