How to Establish a ‘Front Line’ Improvement Culture in 6 Easy Steps

5 Minute Read

Introduction

Looking to establish a culture of continuous improvement and not sure where to start?  The trick is to consider the different approaches and decide which will mesh best with your existing operating structures.

In each of the 6 steps below, multiple options are presented for consideration.  If you need help in developing a customised solution for your organisation, then reach out to the team at EnterpriseIS.

improvement culture

Step #1 - Provide Resources and Training

The ideal scenario is the improvements implemented and the time required to implement is self-sustaining.  The reality is this requires a very clear strategy and time to implement!

In all situations, a structure needs to be established that eliminates the barrier of access to resources, and all personnel need to be allotted time to be involved in improvement. This will increase engagement and enable the relevant information to be gathered from the knowledge available.

Time also needs to be allocated for training or coaching employees in the improvement methodology chosen to improve business outcomes, for example, visual management, 5S, Kaizen events, etc.  If training is the chosen path, thought needs to be given to the levels of training delivered and any potential competencies achieved for each role.

Improvement cultures will also be accelerated if an improvement team is formed to help prioritise and oversee the improvement program/s.

Step #2 - Idea Generation and Recording

Once improvement resources are identified, it’s time to get the employee’s ideas flowing. But, again, there are numerous ways to generate ideas from your workforce.

A good place to start is to build it into existing processes.  For example, if your teams already have a pre-start meeting, add “improvement ideas” as an agenda item.  If something didn’t go to plan, asking “how to prevent this in the future” will also generate ideas. Then, after the meeting, help the person who raised the idea flesh out the benefits of preparing it for prioritisation.

Setting an agenda item in safety meetings to capture HSEC ideas is another opportunity to build into existing processes.  Pair it with a presentation on implemented ideas to demonstrate traction.  The benefit of using existing structures is that it is more likely to become embedded in the rhythms and routines of the organisation.

An alternative approach is to have a batch process where the team get together and brainstorm their ideas for improving the business.  It can also be as simple as having an idea form to fill out online or to place in a box.

Step #3 - Idea Short-Listing or Screening (Prioritising)

This step involves running each idea through a set of screening questions or checklists that will help quickly determine the business’s benefit.  Ideas that meet the “benefit criteria” are then passed onto the “improvement team” for evaluation.  An example of a simple screening question is, “Will this improvement idea reduce the amount of work someone physically has to do?”.  This type of benefit is seen as a “real” benefit to shop floor personnel and will assist enormously with improvement ownership.

Step #4 - Improvement Team Evaluation

The role of the improvement team is to evaluate the improvements by understanding the business case for implementing the improvement.  In simple terms, Will the idea improve Safety, Cost or Production?

Also, as part of the evaluation, the effort to achieve the improvement needs to be understood. For example, an improvement idea that makes a significant positive improvement and needs few resources to implement will be evaluated as a greater benefit than one with a slight improvement requiring significant resources.  One useful approach is to have a chart with benefits on one axis and required resources on the other.

Plotting each idea on the chart will quickly indicate which ideas require further discussion and analysis.  The improvement team will also consider the time to implement, the funds available (whether capital or operating expense) and the resources or skills required when making their decisions.  While having access to a team of resources to implement is essential, having easy access to a pool of funds readily available for improvement is just as important in gaining traction.

Consideration also needs to be given to the feedback loop for people who have generated ideas that didn’t make the cut for whatever reason.  No feedback will eventually lead to no more ideas being generated.

 

Step #5 - Idea Implementation

At this point, you now have a list of improvements to implement.  An implementation plan will need to be established for each improvement idea and resources allocated, with consideration given to how the person who raised the initial idea can be involved in the implementation.

Once in place, it’s time to measure whether the actual improvements match the expected improvements and record the results.  Reporting on the cumulative benefits to safety, costs, and productivity will generate energy within the team.

Step #6 - Compounding the Improvements

Picture this.  A workshop implements their first 5S improvement by building a jig that saves 2 hours a week.  The supervisor then allocates those “saved 2” hours to working on the next improvement.  After a couple of weeks, the teams next idea improves productivity by an additional 3 hours.  The supervisor then allocates 5 hours per week for working on their next productivity improvement.  The cycle continues until, before long, the work is being completed safer and in 30% less time.  This approach has a compounding effect on the workshop productivity and also in establishing the continuous improvement culture.

An improvement that delivers benefits in one area of the business may also be quickly replicated to deliver benefits in other areas……. A further compounding effect.

Consideration should also be given to how best to recognise and reward those who contribute to improving the business.  This can be as simple as recognition from the leadership in a meeting or publication, providing a small gift or morning tea, or rewarding through annual performance reviews. Put some thought into what would resonate with your culture and be consistent in the application. Then, when word gets around that people are being recognised and rewarded, the ideas will keep coming in.

Final Thoughts

One of the leadership roles is to improve their team’s performance and the business outcomes year after year.  The task is made easier if there is an engaged workforce with a continuous improvement culture.  A clear strategy and plan that builds on your existing processes will help to establish that culture.

If you need any assistance in establishing a “front line” improvement culture, please reach out to the team at EnterpriseIS.  After exploring what success looks like for you, we’ll tailor a solution to deliver on your goals.

 

Contact us at the EnterpriseIS office nearest to you or submit an inquiry online.

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