Large corporations are often laser-focused on continuous and incremental improvement, and smaller businesses should be as well. Good continuous improvement programs can help team members recognize opportunities for improvement and give them the tools to implement changes. There are many sources of methods for continuous improvement programs, and if you do just a little bit of research you should be able to find a program that makes sense for your company.
For instance, at Whip Mix we have borrowed from: Kaizen events, Total Quality Management (TQM), Lean manufacturing, employee suggestion programs, project management (PMI), and many other resources throughout the years. Our culture changes with time so we have to periodically adjust to continue to provide the right tools to our team members.
As managers, you can learn about the different systems and principles of quality and continuous improvement through: blogs, books, podcasts, peer groups, facility tours and seminars. Make sure you bring a coworker to get the most out of what you heard and sift through how those ideas and processes would work or not work for your company.
What are the benefits?
- Reduce costs
- Engage employees
- Foster critical thinking
- Find the next big idea for your business
Watch out for these mistakes:
- Over-inflating cost savings – consider whether your savings will be soft (saving time) versus hard (reduction in materials)
- Over-utilizing your top performers who always get it done
- Overdoing it in either direction: allowing every idea or rejecting every idea
- Putting one person in charge of deciding which ideas are approved and leading teams
- Making your system too complicated
Keep in mind:
- You don’t have to do time-intensive training for everyone in your organization. Keep it to supervisors/managers. You’ll have turnover everywhere, but it’s much less work to keep up with training new supervisors.
- Try to keep your core values and main goals of the organization in mind as you implement ideas. Don’t let cool or exciting ideas distract you from achieving the goals the company already has for the year.
- Individuals should not be spread too thin. You’ll need to limit how many big implementations one person can be a part of at any one time – 3 to 4 is probably the upper limit. If you can’t do a big project while you wait for human resources to become available, keep a list of upcoming projects so you essentially have a pipeline of great ideas.
- Recognition of your team members participating in continuous improvement is essential to keep them coming back for more, and to entice others who might be reluctant.