Introducing Process Improvement

Basic Business Cents

Business is tough and necessary performance improvement is a never-ending quest. We cannot ever rest on our laurels and stand still; we are either continually improving or we are losing ground to competitors.

When introducing a process improvement program into an organization, there are many do’s and don’ts. This type of program begins and ends with leadership. There is no point in introducing performance improvement measures where the top leader does not lead. No one else can do, it must be the top person leading the way, setting the example, and motivating others to the cause. Leaders cannot merely stand on the sidelines and cheer on the employees. They must have more zeal and enthusiasm than any other employee and lead the way. The manager’s enthusiasm for work should never be less than subordinates.

The leader must then work on obtaining the same excitement for process improvement in each employee. This improvement activity requires a new way of thinking for the entire organization so that everyone is aligned in his/her thought processes. Simply driving it from the top will not get the desired results; in a one-man autocratic organization, the people will only do what they are told. The organization needs the combined knowledge, experience, and creativity of all employees. This will require a humanistic type of management that builds mutual trust and respect throughout the organization. Employees treat each other as equals in true teamwork.

Lip service or good intentions at all levels do not get results. Implementing measures to improve processes does. First, everyone must understand his/her work processes and then seek to simplify and improve them.

The leader should attend seminars and then teach lessons learned to the employees. Armed with this new knowledge, the leader should improve his/her own processes and then lead improvement teams personally to work on other key processes. The leaders need to be familiar with the true state of the organization. By observing the way employees answer questions and examine data, managers can see the real problems.

Employees sometimes hesitate to have leaders in the same training or on their improvement team because they are reluctant to state problems in front of them. This is indicative of management problems that need to be addressed before the improvement results are optimum. People need to feel secure stating the truth about conditions.

No company, system, or process is perfect and problems always exist. From the top leader to the most recent hire, all need to work together to improve the work processes and solve problems, little by little, better and better. Enthusiasm and excitement for this new journey, coupled with training and teamwork, make the work more satisfying, productive, and even enjoyable.