Continuous Improvement techniques can revolutionise a business - here are five questions to ask yourself before you start.

1) Is there a compelling business need?

Many companies in our experience have not actually thought about why they would like to embark on a continuous improvement journey. When we have asked companies why they want to "do lean" their responses can be very vague. Unless a company can understand "the why" and link it to a tangible business objective any initiative may fall at the first hurdle.

2) Are roles and responsibilities filled with the right people?

The importance of people's job roles and what they do cannot be underestimated. Top Management strategy setting and directing the organisation (leading by example) needs to be supported by the right people in middle management / supervisor roles to facilitate, support and initiate change. It is everyone's responsibility to continuously improve but in our experience many people do not have the required attributes to effectively do their job. This leads to people doing things that are within their comfort zone of activity rather than supporting what is necessary to help continuous improvement.

3) Do you embrace simple concepts?

It really is important to start with the basics. Many companies try programs, use buzzwords and employ people to change a company towards continuous improvement. It is better for 100 people to take one step forward than 1 person to take 100 (in our experience that person will normally leave). Simple basic concepts such as Value Adding Work /Non Value Adding Work and Waste together with Plan Do Check Act are the basics that everyone should know. Some companies believe "they have done lean" or "lean did not work". Simple concepts in simple language that a company can understand are the starting point. Sometimes companies do not like simple!

4) Are you prepared for the journey?

Like any journey there are preparations that are required. Not everyone needs to know everything so the level of knowledge required needs to be understood for all employees. Continuous Improvement needs to be part of the company culture and not a bolt on "extra activity". People need to know where he or she fits, how they will contribute and how they will be measured. The Planning of the program and its deployment needs to follow a natural Plan Do Check Act cycle.

5) Have you made the Activity Your Own?

Many companies do not really think about ownership. Language, manufacturing rule, deployment of training and improvement activities need to respect the DNA of the company. In this way ownership is truly achieved and if ownership is achieved this leads to belief in continuous improvement and sustainability

Use this checklist to make your continuous improvement journey a success.

Article by Stuart McGivern of The KPI Team.

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