These days people look for instant results. They want something, and they want it now! Some people have the same expectation for continuous improvement (CI). Although they never say it out loud, they believe that CI will get them instant results.
Continuous improvement is a way of life. It is a different way to think and do things. Therefore, it comprises challenging prevailing ideas and learning new ones. Reshaping your entire belief system for process improvement and problem-solving is not an easy task. As a result, it cannot be quick or instant.
Instant Results and Continuous Improvement
I visualize continuous improvement as a marathon. Through the CI system, you are looking to change people’s minds and hearts. Lean or CI cannot be considered a tool or a short-term strategy to accomplish some goals. It is a long-term commitment to which leadership focuses on developing people and create a team of problem-solvers.
Two heads are better than one
Two heads are better than one. That is to say that it is easier for two people who help each other to solve a problem than it is for one person. In a traditional setting, the manager and supervisors are fire-fighting all the time. They take care of putting off a fire and run to the next one without learning about why it happened or how to fix it for good.
Learning proper problem-solving and root cause analysis techniques is the best way to get out of that vicious cycle. Better yet, grasp the new methods and teach your team how to do it. Create a team of problem-solvers by empowering your people. Allow them to solve their daily problems while you coach and guide them. Let them be the source for most ideas and take ownership of the improvement process.
Permanent results, not instant ones, is what changes the culture
Continuous improvement is not a sprint race but a never-ending race. Change the mindset and culture takes time. Learning how to test new ideas and reflect on the results takes time as well. Continuous improvement or kaizen is the daily practice of creating small changes. It is possible to get big results with small changes. The time invested in using the scientific method to learn and reflect on the results guarantees a thoughtful process. This thought process makes those results likely to be permanent, but it takes time and patience.
In the time and age of clicking a button for instant purchases, a culture change is perceived as a big undertaking. Well, it is a big undertaking. There is no way to make this instant or fast while keeping the permanent aspect. Create new habits and change our thinking process is slow rather than fast. However, the practice of CI, everywhere, by everybody, every day will keep the momentum going and the changes sustainable.