To start the continuous improvement (CI) journey, you will need a culture change. One of the first steps is to learn how leadership and the team will react to it. However, there are a few things that you need to understand before start planning. For example, you will need to learn about the current culture and the company history regarding policies, salary systems, and politics. Moreover, knowing this, you will identify what behaviors need to change. Develop new behavior patterns is the fourth action from the top leadership to-do list to achieve a successful CI implementation.
Say goodbye to old behaviors
Commonly, past collective experience is based on thoughts and behaviors that you need to change. A culture based on disrespect, lack of appreciation, and lack of clarity, is no longer acceptable. Likewise, dysfunctional competition, us versus them mentality, and values talk without action either.
The foundation to develop new behaviors
We need to guide people with a clear, inspiring, and shared vision of the future. Continuous improvement is not easy, and although it has many sweet rewards, it also has disappointments and brings some failures as well. Be honest about the challenges in front of them, answer their questions, and never back up from the objective. Talk the talk, but most importantly, walk the talk, a voice without action will not do any good to gain the trust of your employees.
How to develop new behaviors
Leadership must become coaches who are communicating the idea of continuous improvement all the time. Every leaders’ responsibility is to model the desired behaviors. Learn and practice lean thinking and promote challenging the status quo. Prove with actions that it is ok to try and fail as long as you never stop trying. Show them how to test new ideas using a system like PDCA. Get used to reflect upon every win, and every loss, share the lesson learned and use them to improve the improvement process.
Leaders should watch for stress reactions, such as threats, resignation, or illness. They need to work with those affected to understand why and create an action plan. It is normal to feel high levels of stress or fear because the team is still weighing if they can trust the new culture. There are many uncertainties during the change, and for that reason, constant, honest, and effective communication is critical.
Set achievable milestones, prioritization, and practice positive feedback. Develop a fair performance assessment program designed to develop people’s skills and not to punish them. Avoid anything that can result in frustration or underutilization of individuals.
As I said before, as long as leadership keeps fulfilling their continuous improvement responsibilities, implementation will keep going and slowly, but surely, the culture will change.