In identifying what makes a continuous improvement team successful, it’s most helpful to look at where they fail. Anyone can retroactively attribute key factors to success, however, real learning comes from understanding the shortcomings. Below, we’ve identified five common reasons continuous improvement teams fail to succeed.
Lack of Influence
In order for continuous improvement projects to take hold, teams need to have the full eyes and ears of the organization, especially the leadership team. It’s important to ensure that continuous improvement experts have a seat at the table during major strategic conversations.
First, knowing that your efforts are valued at the corporate or managerial level keeps decision makers invested in your work. More importantly, staying in the loop helps inform decision making and sparks new ideas for projects. Continuous improvement professionals need to have a solid understanding of the company’s overall strategy in order to best solve problems.
Action Item: Request a seat at the table when management and leaders are discussing strategic business goals. Make your needs known and align your projects with company goals.
Lack of Practice
In addition to leadership support, continuous improvement managers need to support themselves by regularly practicing continuous improvement strategies and methods. Make sure you’re actively practicing what you preach.
Managers that aren’t practicing risk becoming rusty and unaware of the latest solutions and techniques to add to their continuous improvement toolbelt. The more tools and knowledge you have at your disposal, the more opportunity you will have to solve problems.
Key Takeaway: Being a leader of continuous improvement means leading by example. Stay current with your industry’s trends and continually evaluate new tools.
Lack of Acceptance
In order to ensure that your hard work will make a lasting impact, be sure every project empowers workers throughout the organization. Continuous improvement is a skill that should be practiced in every department and level of an organization to achieve the best results.
Too often, continuous improvement projects take place in isolation, only involving one or two departments. Additionally, they can be seen as temporary problem-solving projects, instead of a long-term approach to success.
Action Item: Help foster a continuous improvement culture by implementing data-based decision making at every level of the company.
Sacrificing Tomorrow for Today
It’s human nature to chase easy wins. Things like reducing paper costs are easy ways to save in the short-term but don’t have an enduring impact on a company’s success. When evaluating potential projects, avoid a mindset that focuses on easy, immediate savings.
By focusing on instant success, you sacrifice tomorrow for today. Instead, look ahead to future savings that will create real long-term benefits. This doesn’t mean that these projects won’t see success in the near future. After creating long-term goals, break down your projects into small, incremental steps before implementation.
Key Takeaway: Avoid the temptation to focus on short-term projects that see quick results. Break down long-term projects into more manageable tasks and get to work.
Prioritizing “Easy Wins”
Easy wins look great on paper, but don’t create real change. Attack the largest problem you can find head-on. Once successful, this will show colleagues that continuous improvement is an important and valuable skill set.
As a project leader for continuous improvement efforts, it’s your responsibility to always be the agent of urgency within an organization. Don’t wait for an invitation. If you’re not the one pushing the need for improvement, then nobody will. Large, public victories like this will have a rippling effect that will make it easier to advocate for future projects.
Key Takeaway: Aim big and make your victories your known. Let your success be your advocate.