You’ve optimized your processes, and streamlined your operation. So now what?

Every operational organization that I know is focused on cost savings and efficiency.  They each use different tools, 40X, Lean, Six Sigma, Activity Based Costing (to name a few), route optimization, KPI’s, Scorecards, Metrics.   Sometimes they use more than one or a combination of these tools.  What I’ve found is that they will all get to a certain point using a specific tool to achieve savings, and yet, still feel that there is more to go.

This is where innovation truly starts to come into play.  It’s where creative outside of the box, why not thinking is a differentiator.  But, most operational organizations are structured, by nature they operate using standard procedures that mitigate their risk.  They are running flat out to deal with their daily operations – stuff has to get to where it needs to go.  Managers deal mostly with fire fighting, communication, triage, and managing people.

So how do you become innovative and focus on continuous improvement while you are still resource constrained, managing day-to-day, and trying to keep your head above water?  Here’s a few simple steps to support innovation and change:

GET EVERYONE INVOLVED IN THE CONVERSATION

Hold a facilitated business process review including your upstream and downstream stakeholders.  Include people outside your organization in the process (customers, suppliers, vendors, etc.) – you’ll be surprised at the level of engagement.

Walk through your business processes and ask “what’s going well, what’s not going well”, maybe use a Lean Value Stream Map, or other tool, but include everyone in the conversation, and make it a safe place to say what is and isn’t good about working with you.

CREATE A PLAN

Prioritize the elimination of errors and communication issues within your operation.  If you aren’t managing issues all day, you’ll have the time to lead improvement.  Assign a person the task of managing the projects that come out of the business process session (believe me you’ll need it).   Have a status update meeting at regular intervals (weekly, bi-weekly).

INCLUDE PEOPLE IN THE PROCESS

Include as many people in the project as possible (even when it’s tough).  Personally, I love those grumpy people who complain about stuff – they are the ones that I need to hear the most!  They usually see opportunities, and while the moaning might be tough to listen to – in that grumpy employee (you know who you are) is a person with an insight and aptitude for change.

CELEBRATE YOUR PROGRESS

Celebrate the changes and positive progress you are making!  When people see how their contributions are making a difference, they get motivated to support activities.

Everyone wants to be part of a winning team that makes positive change.

CHANGE ALL THE TIME

Get your team used to innovation and improvement.  The good news with continuous improvement focus is that you are always improving, the bad news is that improving is change, and change is hard and stressful.  If you break down the big changes into small changes, it’s easier for people to process, and less stressful.  So, change – all the time – changing every day in little ways adds up to long term wins!

Prioritize what changes you are making, and have a strong clear communication strategy on why you are changing.

FINAL THOUGHTS

At this point, it’s all about people, listening to the issues and challenges (in every issue, problem or complaint is an opportunity to improve!), engaging their passion and energy, supporting focus and direction, celebrating their successes, and never giving up.  Achieving process improvement takes persistence, commitment and time.

Source: Corrie Banks

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