Thursday, October 15, 2009

Creating an Organization-Wide Continuous Improvement Culture (Part 2)

In Part 1 we discussed the realization that a CI program of some sort is needed and that the two most important things to consider are the level of commitment that you have and the expected outcomes for the business. In this section we will discuss detailed planning to achieve the vision, training & execution, marketing your success and promoting the right behaviors and skills (otherwise known as feeding the beast).

Detailed Planning: There are a thousand little things to consider here. Many depend on what approach you settle on. Who will do your training? Will you certify your internal people? To what standard will they be certified? How will you communicate internally about progress and the program? How will you handle the negative backlash to change? What fears are most likely to rise up? All of these question will need to be addressed in a detailed way, pretty much up front. Some might wait until later, but if you imagine yourself as wildly successful, you will soon be faced with these issues, better to start thinking about them now.

Training: Depending on the program you've chosen, there are a wealth of resources out there to help accomplish this task. When engaging with someone to help you with training and even with program development, remember, you are in the drivers seat. Do your homework so you can engage the consultant and they can help you craft a program that meets your organizations needs, not theirs.

Execute, execute, execute: Once the detailed planning is drafted and the training is underway, its now time to execute. This is, by far, the most important part of any culture change activity. This is where credibility is built. This is the part where skeptics can become supporters and even passionate believers in what you do. The old saying "the proof is in the putting" is appropriate here. Early success is key to building credibility, so chose what problems to tackle wisely. Remember that you are dealing with high performing people but they have little to no experience with this new set of tools. Mistakes will be made, projects will fail, it happens so don't set someone up with a too complex problem as their first opportunity. At the same time, you want the problem to be real and easily recognizable by all as a problem worth fixing

Market your success: Once you start to have some solid success, start marketing. This part is underrated by many (including me early on) but marketing the successes will help create momentum for the initiative. You'll be able to recognize when you have momentum when you no longer have to recruit people into the initiative, but they seek you out to lobby you to allow them to participate. How to market depends on the company culture. I've used "Six Sigma Fairs", project presentations, billboard and email announcements, and testimonials to varying degrees of success. Try lots of things and stick to what you find works.

Promote the right behaviors: One of the most important things to consider upfront is how you will feed the beast in the future. Most CI Initiatives require some intentional turnover to be viewed as beneficial and viable. The challenge here is what to do with the people that have the new skills required to be effective CI leaders. The best thing to do is promote them into positions of leadership. If the program is truely valuable to the company, those skills will be valued in leadership roles as well. There is an added benefit of showing the organization how important the initiative is to the company's success, and that participation is a possible path to promotion.


Brad said...

Hey Jim,

I liked your last two posts. In addition to being great advice for implementing quality initiatives, they provided some strong guidelines for any type of initiative.

Jim said...

Thanks Brad. I have a post coming up that ties in nicely with your recent post about content vs process. Stay Tuned!

Mohammed Rehman said...

I think the suggestions are very practical and detailed. It was good to read and I have learnt some important things here.

Jim said...

Thanks Mohammed. I appreciate it. Stop by weekly for more useful information about quality management, lean, and six sigma