How Are Employees Commonly Involved In The Continuous Improvement Process
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A continuous improvement process (CIP) is an ongoing way to achieve excellence through constant adaptation and experimentation of processes, systems, or products.
This concept was first described by W. Edwards Deming in his book The New Economics. He defined it as “change for its own sake, non-productive change”. This doesn't necessarily mean making things worse, but rather seeking out opportunities to make changes that can improve what you are offering customers and thus the company.
By implementing new ways of doing business, there is always something new to test out and learn from. It also creates an environment where employees feel free to suggest alternatives to how things are done, which helps foster teamwork and collaboration.
It's very common at least half of all workers in any given organization to be involved in a CIP. What makes this difficult is that not everyone perceives their job to be in line with improving the quality of the product or service being offered.
In some cases, people may even have a sense of entitlement to keep working under the current system because they know of too few changes. In other instances, people don't perceive anyone around them to be able to do anything beyond putting in their usual effort, so they don't try to go above and beyond.
The more engaged and aware individuals are of the CIP, the easier it will be to bring about positive changes within the organization.
Meet with management
As mentioned earlier, leadership is an important part of any continuous improvement process. If you are not sure who your leader is, look to see how they handle themselves at work and evaluate whether or not that behavior can be replicated in those around them.
As leaders ourselves, we must also recognize our mistakes and learn from them so that we do not make the same ones elsewhere.
By meeting with members of upper level management, you will gain knowledge about what changes need to be made within the company and some ideas for ways to implement those changes.
You may find that there are already steps being taken towards improving the workplace, and this information can help you determine if these efforts are successful or needed to be tweaked.
Hold formal or informal reviews
Even if you have never done this before, holding a review is not a very difficult task. You can do it with just about anyone in your organization – manager, team leader, senior professional, etc. It does not need to be for a specific purpose either; maybe they deserve a praise-worthy moment or an opportunity to correct something that went wrong.
Holding a review at the right time is also important. When doing an annual performance review, people should know what to expect. If you are giving the review during the summer, when people have less motivation, it could influence the results.
When planning the review, make sure to include both internal and external individuals. This allows for more input and insights from all parts of the organization and the community.
By having both internal and external reviewers, people feel more included and understood.
Create a team
As mentioned earlier, continuous improvement doesn’t happen alone! When you have more than one person trying to make changes, things can get confusing quickly.
You need to create a team that works together towards a common goal. This will depend on what types of improvements your organization is looking to make as well as how much responsibility each member has.
For example, if someone in your department is able to make all the quality control checks themselves then they don’t need to be part of the continuous improvement process.
But if they are not, then it is important for them to know about quality controls so that they can help ensure everything is done right.
Team members should feel like they are being heard and understood – both verbally and through actions. If there is ever an issue or question, take time to talk about why this is important and what steps must be taken next.
This way, everyone is always aware of what needs to be done and no one gets left out.
Hold daily meetings
A meeting is considered to be continuous if it happens at least once per day, and usually more than one person attends. This can be an informal chat or a formal presentation that covers an agenda item.
Many companies hold what they call “executive briefings” where the top executives talk about the company’s plans for the week or the month. These are typically organized around a topic such as production, sales, marketing, etc.
These executive presentations are important because they let lower-level employees know what their superiors are planning for the organization, and how they can help make those plans a success.
They also give senior leaders a chance to speak directly to these people about the responsibilities of your job and the ways you can improve yourself professionally.
By having these conversations every day, there is always something new happening that professionals can learn from.
Be a teacher and mentor
As mentioned earlier, your organization should have an improvement department or team that works with employees to help them improve their job skills and knowledge. This is typically referred to as employee education or career development.
Typically, these individuals are drawn from all departments within the company- not just yours. They can be senior level executives or middle management, but even lower level staff members who need educational guidance.
The goal of this group is to help you grow professionally by giving you resources and information so that you can succeed at whatever position you currently hold as well as moving up the ladder.
They will often organize seminars, workshops, and conferences either at the workplace or via online platforms like Google Hangouts and YouTube. These can focus on anything such as leadership qualities, effective communication strategies, technology tips and tricks, etc.
These meetings are usually open to everyone so anyone can attend, which helps contribute to having wider participation. Even if you don’t go to every one, you can watch and learn something valuable.
Take on leadership roles
As mentioned earlier, your organization may not know what steps to take for continuous improvement unless someone takes ownership of it. This can be you as an individual leader or a team of leaders that work together to create change.
If there is no one leading CI, then there will be no CI happening.
Often times, senior level employees are too busy with other responsibilities to devote time towards improving the workplace. If you’re a newer employee at this company, there may not be anyone you feel comfortable speaking up about needed changes.
That’s why it’s important to become actively involved in the CI process. You don’t need to do everything everyone else does, but if you see something that could use some help or input, let them know!
Be careful how you approach these improvements, though. Make sure they're sensible and achievable, otherwise people may get discouraged.
Also remember that CI isn't just for top management -- anyone who works here should be doing their part to keep things running well. The more people out there talking about quality issues and problem solving strategies, the better we all function.
Get the rest of the team involved
A large part of this process happens outside of meetings, discussions, and goal setting sessions. This is important to note as there are many times when leadership will ask how you would improve something- either about their position or the way they manage things– and then leave without doing anything!
This is because often times it takes someone other than your leader to notice what you need to change. It can be a colleague that others have made comments about, or it could be a growing internal sense that something needs to shift.
When this happens, instead of ignoring the comment, get some help from people around you to figure out what needed changing and who might play a role in making that happen.
By bringing in colleagues into the conversation, they may find new roles for themselves in helping you achieve your goals. For example, if your manager is no longer able to take charge of certain situations due to lack of confidence or trust, maybe he/she should consider becoming more flexible by accepting changes or mistakes that come his/her own career.
Alternatively, if his/her direct reports seem to enjoy success after being asked for their input and ideas, perhaps he/ she should spend time listening to learn more about why that is and apply those lessons at home.
A popular way that most large companies implement CI is through performance reviews. These are usually conducted every six months, with each employee getting asked about their progress, what they have been doing to improve upon past projects, if there are any areas they feel need help, and if anyone has done anything good recently.
By having these conversations, employees can learn from one another’s mistakes, and hopefully be inspired to make changes for better results next time around. This creates an environment where people are willing to take more risk and put in extra effort because they know others will hold them accountable.
In addition to asking questions during interviews and performance reviews, many employers also use data to do quality checks and improvement initiatives.
These types of measurements happen all the time; for example, when you go into a restaurant, you look at the prices before deciding whether or not to eat there. You compare what they ask for as a tip to how much money they make per order to determine if they overcharge, and if so, how much.
For professionals who work in the service industry, this type of measurement and analysis happens almost automatically. If someone gets a bad tip, they will research the place and get information about why it may have happened, and then try to prevent similar things from happening in the future.
For engineers, managers, and other professional workers, performance reviews and data collection are ways to fix issues that may exist within their field.