Continuous process improvement methodology is heralded by both public and private organizations because of its proven ability to deliver significant results. In the Pacific region, the 7th Transportation Brigade implemented the methodology to analyze the poor performance of six modular warping tugs and cultivate solutions. A pilot plan was successfully tested, then implemented command-wide. The changes improved the brigade’s operational readiness by 40 percent and reduced the maneuver control system non-availability time from 48 hours to just 4 hours.
This is just one of thousands of examples of how military leaders have used continuous process improvements (CPI) to their advantage. As discussed in previous blogs on this website, continuous process improvement consists of four basic steps:
- Plan: Identify an opportunity and plan for change.
- Do: Implement the change on a small scale.
- Check: Use data to analyze the results of the change and determine whether it made a difference.
- Act: If the change was successful, implement it on a wider scale and continuously assess your results.
While these steps sound simple, this problem-solving process is dependent upon building a culture that upholds its defining principles. Here are seven practices to promote an enduring continuous process improvement culture within your team.
- Set a Tone of Collaboration
Dictating a new process to employees often doesn’t create behaviors that stick. Instead, leaders should participate in the process to show their commitment and actively seek out the input of employees who are hands-on with the work. A collaborative approach will elicit more perspectives, potential solutions and buy-in from everyone involved.
- Show Your Commitment
Teams need to know that leadership is committed to adopting a new way of approaching their work. Set aside time to respond to questions or suggestions quickly so that team members feel heard. Show up to help teams implement an idea or coach them to help uncover an alternate approach to solving the identified problem.
- Create Good Habits
Remove barriers to make the continuous improvement process easier for your team to execute. Time and resources are frequent inhibitors, so carve out time for your teams to reflect on problems and try out new processes. Software can help teams and simplify the tracking of their progress. Ultimately, it needs to be simple for teams to operate within the CPI loop.
- Celebrate Even Small Successes
Recognizing progress is an integral piece of the feedback loop for teams. Keep in mind that small steps along the way are ultimately what lead to big changes. Let people know when their ideas are working and moving the needle to keep them motivated and suggesting new ideas.
- Don’t Wait to Execute
Many organizations get bogged down in processes and layers of approval, which can be frustrating and discouraging for teams trying to champion CPI. Empower your team to focus on the execution of their solutions and act quickly to keep the momentum going.
- Welcome All Types of Solutions
As a leader or manager, it’s easy to focus on solutions that will have a direct impact on the bottom line. Be equally as receptive to ideas for improving the customer experience, employee morale or team engagement because these process improvements could ultimately make your employees’ jobs easier, safer or more fulfilling.
- Be Patient and Supportive
Widespread cultural change takes time and commitment from both leadership and team members. Make training and coaching readily available so your team knows how to use the CPI cycle and tools effectively. Be sure to also share successes and best practices with other teams throughout the organization.
When properly implemented and embraced by everyone in the organization, continuous process improvement becomes a part of the organizational culture. Creating a CPI-centric culture can boost productivity, create a competitive advantage, encourage grassroots input, enhance creativity, increase teamwork, and improve the product and service quality as well as the overall company culture.
Continuous Process Improvement for Executives (CPIE)
The Institute for Defense and Business developed the Continuous Process Improvement for Executives program for senior military and civilian leaders to integrate executive leadership development and management concepts with multiple process improvement methodologies, strategic deployment and management strategies. The program covers the role of senior executives in solving the toughest transformation and culture challenges from an enterprise executive perspective.
The Institute for Defense and Business (IDB) delivers educational programs and research to teach, challenge and inspire leaders who work with and within the defense enterprise to achieve next-level results for their organization. IDB features curriculum in Logistics, Supply Chain and Life Cycle Management, Complex Industrial Leadership, Strategic Studies, Global Business and Defense Studies, Continuous Process Improvement, and Stabilization and Economic Reconstruction. Visit www.IDB.org or contact us on our website for more information.