It’s one thing to say you’re going to do something to improve continuously every day, like exercising, is one thing. Following through is another. It takes discipline. In an Accelix best practices webinar called The Exponential Power of Daily Continuous Improvement, Calvin Williams, founder and CEO of Impruver, explores the power of daily improvement and the benefits of implementing a continuous improvement plan.
For a continuous improvement plan to succeed, Williams says there needs to be a change in mindset where an organization moves away from a project-based mentality toward a day-to-day improvement mentality.
“A lot of companies that are stuck in that project-based mindset for continuous improvement have the Kaizen Ninjas out there leading all the projects themselves and not really transferring that capability into the organization,” says Williams. “There’s still a ton of opportunity for growth.”
Continuous Improvement Examples
Many companies will spend three to six months planning and executing a complicated, immense project plan, including two weeks of explaining why they believe it to be a success. But Williams sees inherent issues with this approach to improvement; specifically, it delays the learning process.
“Since you just implemented a slug of action items and to-dos, you don’t really know what worked and what didn’t,” says Williams. “You don’t get any feedback or any results until the project’s done, and that could be weeks or months later.”
Instead of waiting weeks to see results, a daily improvement cycle can use maintenance key performance indicators (KPIs), such as reducing emergency work orders or increased throughput. Seeing the numbers gives you the opportunity and time to make small, daily changes that add up, accelerating the learning process.
Benefits of Continuous Improvement in Maintenance and Manufacturing
The three main benefits of continuous improvement include exponential business achievement, cultural development, and personal growth. Understanding how each one factors into a program before you start will help prime the path to your success.
How Continuous Improvement Drives Cultural Development
An inadequate daily improvement culture is often recognizable, and those without it tend to fall behind in the market. Common symptoms of a flailing culture include a slowness to adapt to change, a low sense of urgency for productivity, and apathy for producing quality work.
Toyota laid the groundwork for others to follow by fostering and supporting work environments that embody a continuous improvement culture. Ford, GM, and Chrysler all took notice when in 2003, Toyota announced an ROI eight times higher than the industry average.
Today, most companies at least aspire to practice some form of continuous improvement. Here are a few of the expected benefits and attributes of a healthy culture.
A healthy culture:
- Conditions a company to embrace change
- Creates an environment where failure is defined as not trying
- Encourages proactive effort towards the company’s vision
- Develops a virtuous cycle of more improvement
Personal Growth Through Continuous Improvement
Changing behaviors is critical to continuous improvement, and one change can make all the difference. Ultimately, the goal of daily improvement is to make the process of improving processes second nature.
“We like to think that all of our actions are driven by close analysis and conscious, deliberate decision making,” Williams says. “But it turns out that a good chunk of them, almost half of our actions on a day-to-day basis, are truly a force of habit.
Various scientific studies and statistics show that continuous improvement also has physiological rewards. Employees who practice making improvements daily actually start developing new habits and routines that eventually transition to behavior that can then be tracked, such as decreased work completion times or increased equipment uptime. By measuring every day, teams and individuals will see whether they’re making headway or not.
When employees are aware that they’re making progress, creativity, work engagement, experimentation, and learning increase.
Improving Business Performance with Continuous Improvement
Even if you only make a one percent improvement each day, that single change is the start of a good habit that can grow exponentially. In mathematical terms, a one percent improvement every day for 365 days equals nearly 38 times better results in just one year.
It’s not hard to make a one percent improvement in a day. What is hard is sticking to it, just like with a diet or workout plan.
How do you stay on track with a continuous improvement plan?
- Assign improvement targets that can be measured daily. Every employee should know how they’re doing each day.
- Provide the right tools and resources and focus on the right things to improve.
- Coach to accelerate learning and transformation. Managers might seem like the logical choice for a coach, but they’re not always the best option. If you can, find external support until you build internal capability.
“[The] people closest to the problems are also closest to the best solutions,” Williams says. Get them on board and then provide coaching to help them develop the discipline of daily improvement.
For more guidance on how to implement a daily continuous improvement program, watch the entire webinar at Accelix.com.