Currently, I am planning a complete site assessment. It is a preliminary step before the creation of the transformation roadmap. While working on it, I couldn’t help but remember an experience I had various years ago. During that time, I was the leader of the continuous improvement transformation. Despite my best effort, it was not successful. What did I do wrong? Where did we fail as a team? Some years passed and quite some reflection time as well before I realized what derailed that effort. What can derail the transformation?
Not understanding what you are getting into might derail your transformation.
There are various misconceptions regarding continuous improvement. As a result, many entrepreneurs decide to start their journey believing some of them. For instance, many times, the reason to initiate the effort is cited as costs reduction. Here are some misconceptions that can derail the transformation.
Continuous improvement is not a cost reduction initiative. Furthermore, it is not a tools supermarket where you can pick and choose what you like. CI or lean is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It is different for each company, even for each site. The transformation is not fast or straightforward. For instance, it is a slow process with moments of success followed by setbacks. Also, it is common to have times with total clarity of purpose followed by thousands of doubts. The lack of understanding of all these facts soon will become challenges that leadership is not prepared to deal with.
To overcome the inevitable challenges, leadership needs to understand that lean is a people’s system. CI is not about using tools. The company culture needs to change its focus from financial profit to their people’s development and customer satisfaction. The transformation from traditional to continuous improvement requires being humble and courageous. It is not easy to be vulnerable and willing to expose your weaknesses as a leader. Neither is to let go of the control of the day-to-day operation.
Misalignment between company goals and continuous improvement
Traditionally, company goals are different for each department. Therefore, each team member will work towards department goals that do not promote collaboration. This type of goal perpetuates the silo mentality, which is a CI thinking killer.
In a continuous improvement environment, the goal is to provide the customer with the highest quality, at a lower cost, in the shortest amount of time. For that reason, the collective goals focus on productivity, quality, cost, delivery time, safety, and morale. People from different departments collaborate to achieve those goals.
Not having the top leadership buy-in will derail the transformation
The buy-in and support from leadership are key for a successful CI journey. Their support is critical to building the CI fundamentals into the company culture. Alignment between KPI’s and metrics with the company goals is crucial for success. Leadership is responsible for ensuring this happens, and therefore CI focus will be the right one.
A unified front from this group will help overcome the challenges, setbacks, and resistance to change. One of their responsibilities will be to learn the continuous improvement fundamentals and tools and teach their team. They become students and teachers, modeling the new behaviors and focusing on long-term strategy instead of day-to-day decisions.
Knowing what can derail your company’s culture transformation is the first step to avoid those mistakes. Educate yourself and your team before starting your journey. Learn about the elements for a successful continuous improvement transformation. Perhaps, it is a good idea to find a responsible and CI transformation seasoned person to help.