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  • Jonas Svanäng

Continuous improvement needs promotion. Communications make it happen.

Why visual controls alone are not enough, making the end goal influence and not control, boosting your communications to drive continuous improvement, getting comfortable with discomfort, making problems fun, and always having something to learn.

Making the end goal influence and not control

How do you get everybody inquisitive about current operations, striving to finding a better way, and having fun whilst learning and developing? Many believe cash rewards are the answer, surely big rewards must work right? Yes and no, the science says rewards actually reduce underlying motivation. In fact rewards have been found to reduce creativity and problem solving capabilities because people focus on one goal, even obsess, in order to get the reward. That’s a little bit surprising, rewards don’t always work.

So what about control? Setting clear actions and accountability to hit targets, is that going to work? Yes, together with a regular performance reviews and the right style of leadership it does work. Teams tend to rally and work towards their targets solving problems along the way. This is continuous improvement driven to some extent by coercion and control. After the initial impetuous to improve levels of improvement often drop away. Have you joined morning meetings to find the initial problem solving and improvements falling behind? Old problems are stagnant and not being improved? No new problems being raised? These are symptoms that need to be addressed. You can either do the same thing again, set new targets and controls to focus on improvement, or you can find a new way of working influencing everyone to improve with a cultural change.

Boosting communications to drive continuous improvement

So how can we influence people to solve problems and improve performance without rewards? From our experience and coded into the Lean EcosystemTM are communications that promote continuous improvement. Repeated regularly and consistently these messages encourage the necessary behaviours and culture to develop. Communications need to focus on three areas. Firstly creating a positive tension for improvement, secondly encouraging creativity, and thirdly sharing learning.

Creating a positive tension for improvement can involve a paradigm shift. The rational for tension and improvement needs to be made clear linked to business plans. The tension experienced therefore can be seen as positive, energising and motivating. The tension will drive a culture, which seeks out problems and opportunities to improve. If the target is met, naturally the question comes what next and targets are refocused to take performance forward in the direction required.

Bringing creativity and improvement idea generation to life requires organisations equally give permission to fail. In organisations with a culture of low trust or even fear, creativity is stifled, as people are afraid to collaborate and try to improve. So we need communications that encourage idea generation, give recognition for doing so, and celebrate the act of trying to improve as much as the results.

Communicating and sharing the learning is important for two reasons. The first is that a lot of the learning can be leveraged for quick improvements in other areas in the business. The second is that people like to learn, and sharing learning is motivating in itself, it also motivates others to get involved with their own improvement projects. Learning is the fruit at the end of improvement.


Communication tips you can try now to boost continuous improvement Create a positive tension for improvement - Challenge

  1. Let everyone in the organisation know the big picture and business targets

  2. Create and share an inspirational change story to get everyone onboard

  3. Set challenging targets for each team to improve and ensure local management cascade the big picture and change story

  4. Hold regular town hall meetings to update on progress and keep focus on the big picture and targets

Encourage creativity and the generation of improvement ideas - Kaizen

  1. Always ask how we can improve during team performance reviews

  2. Ask for improvement idea contributions each month to publish and share

  3. Run poster campaigns promoting the generation of improvement ideas

  4. Set up and run lunch time improvement working group discussions to come up with new ideas

Share the learning coming from implemented improvements - Teamwork

  1. Set up improvement success boards to share the latest improvements and learning from across the organisation

  2. Schedule and hold regular walk through to observe and learn directly from improvements made

  3. Publish regular best practice news letters to share learning

  4. Set up a monthly improvement team award and publish their story role modelling improvement and sharing their learning


Lean Ecosystem™ Getting continuous improvement working

Communications are an essential part of a high functioning Lean Ecosystem work. They create a common sense of purpose and direction, and they promote and sustain continuous improvement.

If you want to get more out of continuous improvement, reLean can help you. Boosting communications alone may not be enough and our holistic approach also includes leadership development, employee management HR systems, and alignment of the organisations core value set. reLean can help you succeed with sustainable continuous improvement, if you are interested in this topic or need help, please get in touch with any one of the reLean Partners. Follow reLean on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn

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