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Integrate Continuous Improvement Into Your Organization’s Culture And Daily Activities

A continuous organization improvement program can be easily implemented and be very beneficial using minimal organization resources. It’s very important that you establish a continuous improvement program; not assume that improvement suggestions and efforts will appear without encouragement by management. And it should be become inherent in your culture and day-to-day work activities throughout you organization.

A continuous improvement program can be implemented with these basic guidelines and principles:

Top Management Must Lead. Top management must lead the continuous improvement program and an organization culture that supports the generation of improvement ideas. This is the most important principle. Top management should communicate to everyone that continuous improvement is important to the organization’s success and viability; and it should regularly inform everyone on improvements being considered and implemented. And if not developing ideas on their own, should be engaging their direct reports on how to improve operations.

Integrate Improvement Into Performance Reporting. Activity and performance reporting at all levels of the organization should include performance improvement activities, status and progress. Their format should include a section on improvement initiatives.

Staff Meeting Agendas. Starting at the highest level of the organization staff meetings should include agenda items devoted to improvement ideas and the status of their evaluation and implementation.

Rigorous Analysis. Improvement ideas, like any new initiative, must be analyzed and thought-through as much as possible before being presented. The proposer(s) should be able to describe the nature of the improvement, how it will be implemented and its benefits.

  • There could be work improvement discussion groups or designated employees to whom someone with an idea could go in order to discuss the idea and “flesh-it-out” so that it could then be presented to others.
  • There must be cost-benefit analysis for any new idea prior to an implementation decision. The extent of this analysis will depend on the nature of the suggested improvement and its status, i.e. a relatively new idea will have a relatively general cost-benefit analysis; an idea much further along and getting close to a go or no-go decision will have a relatively in-depth analysis.

Position Descriptions. All position descriptions, all levels of the organization and in all functions, should include language stating that performance improvement is an employee responsibility, as well as a responsibility of top management.

Performance Evaluations. Yearly or bi-monthly employee performance evaluations should identify if employees have been supporting improvement efforts and the extent of that support. However, care will have to be taken so that those employees who do not actively suggest concrete improvement suggestions are not penalized. Nevertheless, employees that suggest valid and useful improvement suggestions should receive positive “points”.

Recognition. Employees and employee work groups should be recognized for their contributions to organization improvement.

Regular Assessments. Regularly, there should be comprehensive assessments of your services, products, in-house support functions, management practices, etc. Employee and work group suggestions are very important, however if you only rely on this approach you have the distinct risk that opportunities for improvement, and problems, will be overlooked. Well planned assessments with specific evaluation criteria, real objectivity and independence from self-serving influences should be regularly conducted.

Improvement Tracking and Reporting. There should be formal reporting on improvements completed and close to being implemented and the benefits they deliver to the organization and its customers/clients. This reporting should be delivered in a way that demonstrates that management places substantial value on continuous improvement.

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