Have you ever wonder how communication is in continuous improvement? Poor communication affects productivity, quality, customer experience, and costs money. David Grossman reported in his article The Cost of Poor Communications, that the total estimated cost of employee misunderstanding is $37 billion. This was among 400 surveyed corporations in the United States and the United Kingdom. On top of that, many companies spend a good chunk of money every year on communication training.
Poor communication is critical for the successful operation of any business. Can you imagine how critical it is when you are trying to change the culture? Let’s see how communication is in continuous improvement.
Communication in continuous improvement is clear and transparent
Clarity of purpose and transparency are critical elements of the lean culture. Effective communication is imperative to convey a shared vision of the future that the company wants to build using continuous improvement. To inspire people with that vision, you need clarity of purpose. For instance, everybody needs to know and understand how their daily work supports the company’s strategic vision. Moreover, to achieve the dramatic change from a traditional to a continuous improvement culture, people need to trust. Trust grows within the organization when transparency exists, and people receive the information they need.
As a leader, your job is to communicate. For instance, 80% of the time you are communicating instructions, expectations, policies, news, standards, and others. A leader in a continuous improvement culture is expected to be a role model and a teacher. These two tasks are forms of communication.
Many sources offer advice to achieve effective communication. For me, one thing is clear, you need to know when and where or how to communicate. Also, I learned that you need to follow the three C’s of effective communication.
Know your audience
One of the best ways to quickly improve the effectiveness of your communication is to adapt your communication style to match your team member’s styles. You need to know his or her communication style. How do they like to receive the information? Also, how much detail do they like? Adapt your vocabulary and examples to the receiver. Remember that not everybody understands the same kind of jargon.
Choose the best time to start your conversation. Do not try to discuss something with a person who is in the middle of an important task. Show respect, ask for a good time to talk. Besides, where and how the communication takes place is also influential. You don’t need a meeting for everything, sometimes a short conversation over a coffee is more than enough. However, other times an email is ok. But always remember that face to face communication is better. If you choose to send a written communication schedule a follow-up conversation to ensure the message gets through as intended.
The three C’s of effective communication
All types of communication need to have at least these three basic characteristics, clarity, collaboration, and consistency.
Communication has to be clear and simple, avoid fancy words if they are not critical to convey the message. It has to be complete but concise to prevent misunderstanding and gives people the information they need.
Effective communication is a collaborative process, in which two or more people contribute to the talking subject. Communication is a two-way process where both parties send and receive information. If you talk without expecting any interaction from the individual(s) you are talking with, you are making an announcement not communicating. Don’t try to dominate the conversation, give other people a chance to express themselves.
Be consistent, commit to your message and act the same way always. When your words and actions do not match, you lose trust, and credibility.
Communication in continuous improvement
Continuous improvement and lean need effective communication for its success. Lean is a people-centric system, which means that the way you treat and communicate with the people is critical for success. In continuous improvement, we want to make the standards and the deviation from them, visible. We want to communicate the standards and performance against them. 5S, visual management, visual displays, kanban, and others are forms of communication. They are tools to ensure transparency and keep the clarity of purpose by making the information and standards visible.