Introducing process improvement into the culture of your organization will remove waste and bring value. We know it. You know it. And we’ve both seen the improved product quality, happier employees, and optimized resources that process improvement brings.
But if we want these improvements to stick over the long-term, we need a transformational change in the way people look at their work.
So, how can this transformation happen?
The companies who have succeeded swear that it is a multi-year process that will do well only with long-term vision and commitment.
Dr. Andrabi, the former president of Mercy St. Vincent Medical Centre in Toledo, Ohio, spotted the inefficiencies in how patient transfer was being handled and saw an opportunity to jump-start transformational change. They began by bringing various staff members together to map out the existing process. Then they discussed where the group wanted to go and brainstormed how to cut inefficiencies at each point in order to get there. Next, they tried out their ideas, evaluating the results along the way. Once the best plan was chosen, it was implemented in the long term.
Today, St. Vincent has a single hub that receives transfer patients and assigns them a bed in 10 minutes. Previously, the process took at least an hour. The hospital runs so efficiently that they witnessed a 26% increase in transfers.
Here are four ways to incorporate process improvement in your company’s culture to usher in transformational change.
1. Kanban Board
A Kanban Board is a workflow optimization tool that helps you monitor and improvise the flow of a project.
Kanban Boards can map your team’s workflow by showing you the various stages of progress. At its basic level, a Kanban board is divided into three phases: Requested, In Progress and Done. The board will help you identify how the requested work is progressing and where work is stuck. If managers find the work getting delayed continuously, then they can investigate and find the root cause and solve it.
The beauty of this concept is that it allows you to divide work and allocate it to people within a team. Though responsibilities rest on different shoulders, the workflow remains coordinated.
Sound Immigration, a Washington based immigration firm, started using a Kanban board, and they identified that the response time from clients was the main reason for delays in case processing. By making changes, they benefited in the form of organized workflow, improved collaboration and preventing wasteful processes.
Team Kanban Board for Product Development by Bossarro
2. Continuous Improvement Meeting
Meetings are an ideal venue to analyse the workflow and identify specific waste elements with your team. But we’ve all seen how too many meetings suck our time and can become the ‘waste’ we are trying to eliminate.
A quick way to prevent this, but continue to monitor workflow, is to conduct simple, daily stand-up meetings. As the name suggests, they are conducted while standing, and every team member must answer three questions:
- What did I accomplish yesterday?
- What will I do today?
- What obstacles are preventing my progress?
This simple and quick meeting will encourage information sharing between team members and encourage collaboration. The fact that you are standing will prevent the meeting from going off course and dragging on for too long.
Read our own experience with Stand-Up Meetings here.
3. Shared Leadership
Contrary to what you may think, shared leadership doesn’t mean letting the team loose. It’s about creating an environment of trust and encouraging accountability.
When you invite team members to become project leaders, you:
- Break down the hierarchy that prevents independent decision-making
- Boost motivation
- Cut back on the bottlenecking caused when one or two people have the sole authority to make decisions
- Free up your frontline staff from focusing on tiny project details
After implementing this concept, LAANE (Los Angeles Alliance for A New Economy) discovered an increase in mutual respect and trust among staff and accountability among leaders. The projects became transparent, and each staff member became aware of who is involved in decision making. LAANE’s end goal was to develop shared metrics of success for individuals and teams and interconnect various departments and programs. Besides achieving this target, the change encouraged staff to ask questions, voice concerns, and offer suggestions using open dialogue.
4. Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication Training
Good communication is essential to process improvement. Period.
The problem is that most people communicate poorly. They pick the avenues that are most convenient or comfortable for them without considering the people on the receiving end. And, if you have a team that doesn’t interact or collaborate well, it has a direct impact on the outcomes your company achieves.
To help your people get on the same page, start by teaching them two communication models:
- Synchronous communication – communication that needs immediate attention and should be conducted face-to-face, through telephone or videoconference.
- Asynchronous communication – communication that can be delayed, and can be submitted by email or chat platforms.
Half the battle in getting communication right is choosing the right channel. By helping your people choose well, you’ll eliminate the mixed messaging and delays creating unnecessary friction in your workplace.
Creating a culture of process improvement in your organization is a long-term strategy. Investing now in workflow optimization, consistent facetime with employees, leadership experiences, and communication training will pay dividends as it builds problem-solving into every aspect of your organization.
“Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
— George Bernard Shaw