A common reaction to failed improvement initiatives is going for a more advanced solution. Go the other way! Simplicity will stand the test of time.
For your organization to succeed with Continuous Improvement you have to make it a natural part of the everyday work of every employee. For that to become reality your approach can’t be complicated. If it is, new employees will need special training to understand your improvement method, you will need additional support resources to keep progressing and backing it up will demand a great deal of your managers’ time.
Time is probably your most limited resource, and in the long run you won’t afford not to use everyone’s creativity. Kill two birds with one stone, keep it simple to both save time and to give everyone a chance to contribute.
A common reaction to recurring problems is bombarding them with solutions. Go the other way! Focus and dig deeper to find the real cause of the problem.
Imagine what would happen if I took you and ten of your colleagues to a junkyard and asked you to build whatever you wanted.
The most common reaction would probably be to just stand there looking around, not sure what to do. Imagine instead that I asked you to build a vehicle that could transport all of you at least ten yards without any of you touching the ground. Now your heads would probably fill with images of wheels, axles, planks to stand on, and steering wheels to guide you along the way. Instantly you would become more creative and could start to organize and divide the work among you. Some people think that creativity grows best when all boundaries are removed. The opposite is true. When we limit and clarify the task it becomes easier for everyone to contribute.
A common reaction in crucial situations is adopting a command and control approach. Go the other way! Ownership is a prerequisite for using one’s full potential.
If you are told exactly what to do when it really matters you will start to question your own ability to handle difficult situations. What’s worse, when you are confronted with challenges in the future it is likely that your insecurity prevents you from taking good decisions or even acting at all.
For a manager it’s a good idea to monitor how many questions he or she asks compared with the number of statements he or she makes. What is your question-statement ratio? Do you try to be more interested or more interesting? If you double your question-statement ratio, you will both learn more and get more out of your colleagues.
Developing a good system with a vision everyone has had input to and is supported by a realistic implementation plan which is simple, owned by everyone and has focus will not guarantee success but it will embed a culture and mind-set of improvement in an business / organization.
“A journey of a thousand steps begins with a single step” Chinese Proverb