For a successful cultural change from traditional to continuous improvement, the CEO or company owner leads the way. It does this by ensuring some actions are taken. One of them is to develop your people first and motivate participation.
The mission of continuous improvement is to develop team skills. Teaching and coaching the team to help them reach their maximum potential is a way to show respect. Respect for the people is at the core of lean thinking. Also, it is one of the top three characteristics of the right work environment for CI success.
Develop your people
One of the lean thinking principles is that the people doing the work design it and solve their problems. The leaders guide the team by respectfully asking questions. They teach them problem-solving and data analysis tools and support them in providing resources and removing roadblocks. In other words, the leaders are now coaches, not bosses. The most senior leader coach his or her team, while they do the same with their teams.
To develop your people, start by giving them a purpose
Each one of your employees needs to know how their work affects the company’s bottom line. Let them know how they contribute to achieving the company mission and vision. That is to say, give them a purpose. Learning new skills will be critical to fulfilling their part.
Link the company Vision and Mission statements to the continuous improvement activities. For instance, link them to the company goals and objectives. Continuous improvement is not a project. Instead, it is part of everybody’s daily work. Therefore, participation in CI efforts and training should be part of the performance review program. Ensure that these things are communicated, discussed, and explain to everybody.
Communicate the development plan and motivate participation
Build a team to work on tying together communication, training, participation, and employee’s performance. The objective is to define and clarify responsibilities, set expectations, and incentivize participation. This team is responsible for reviewing the job descriptions, performance system, and incentive program. Also, they are in charge of creating a suggestion program.
An important piece to motivate participation is training tailored to the company and industry. A good trainer will design the training based on the audience and their preferred learning method. Lean is about learning by doing. In the process, it provides enough theory to support the hands-on activities.
Peoples’ development and participation
A continuous improvement culture is a learning culture. Learning by doing is one of its tenets. Another one is to formulate theories for problem-solving or improvement. Following the scientific method, those theories will need to be tested. The success of this process (PDCA) lies in the understanding that it is ok to make mistakes. It requires effective communication and trust between leadership and teams.
The leadership team has to work with their leader to communicate, train, motivate and clarify alignment between objectives and actions.