5 Tips to Building a Culture of Continuous Improvement – Entrepreneur | Gmx Pharm

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An organization’s culture of continuous improvement is the dynamic force that is critical to achieving the desired competitive advantage. It might sound like management jargon for a small business owner or hard work for a leader in a large organization. Nevertheless, it plays a central role in ensuring the successful future of any company.

The optimal scenario for a business leader is to have customers who are delighted with the service or product, employees who are happy and fulfilled in their work lives, and healthy financial returns that have all shareholders smiling ear to ear.

I have been coaching and training leaders in continuous improvement for more than a decade. Although each journey is specific to an organization, there are common themes for organizing and leading continuous improvement, regardless of the organization’s size, industry, or location.

What is continuous improvement?

Continuous improvement is a company culture in which everyone continuously works to improve all aspects of the company. The goal of each working day is to delight the customer and consistently provide high quality services. These include:

  • Innovation as a constant beacon

  • Inexpensive operation

  • A culture of reduced waste of time, resources and money

  • Employees who naturally wish for better. When they identify a bug or problem, they determine the root cause and take action to fix and improve it.

  • Faster, straightforward processes that are easy to understand and follow

Let’s take an airline as an example. Most of us love to travel. If we were to fly with an airline with a culture of continuous improvement, our experience would likely be very smooth and enjoyable, from booking the flight to reaching our destination. We would jump through the passenger boarding bridge.

Related: If your business isn’t customer obsessed, you’re doing it wrong

what does it take

Continuous improvement is a journey. It takes time, planning, dedication, perseverance and a certain pattern of leadership behavior.

Research conducted by teams from the University of Oxford and EY found that a human-centred approach doubles the success of an improvement journey. The presence – or lack thereof – will enhance or nullify the effort. Here are five key tips for building a culture of continuous improvement for long-term success.

1. Search for improvement opportunities

Sometimes the opportunity is obvious and sometimes we have to look for it. Here are some common opportunity search activities:

  • Ask your customers.

  • Listen to your employees. You have the foremost insight.

  • Examine business processes and explore ways to eliminate steps.

A customer complaint is golden! I vividly remember one business owner’s blank stare when I first mentioned this. What a great resource to get to know your customer. Not understanding what the customer wants is like taking the passenger to the wrong destination because nobody knows where the desired destination is.

2. Prepare for improvements

You found the improvement opportunity; It’s time to create an exciting roadmap that highlights key activities. Some examples of preparation activities are:

  • Develop a structure that encourages shared accountability throughout the leadership chain. It’s not about a lone hero, it’s about a collaborative team.

  • Create an Enhancement Tribe (Champions and Experts) to pave the way.

  • Invest in training (e.g. change leadership, project management, innovation, improvement tools, etc.).

Using the example of air travel, all actors – for every process – must be competent and clear about their roles. If not, your luggage could end up at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

Also See: Four Ways to Improve the Customer Experience (and Keep Your Customers)

3. Measure improvement

A dedicated focus on measurement and improvement metrics will help flaunt your quality focus or stumble. For example, a large hospital management team was trying to manage its long wait times in an ambulance. Their goal was to “reduce average wait times by at least 50%.”

A 50% reduction sounds like a good improvement score. I asked, “Is that it?” A manager cocked his head and replied, “Our patients will still be waiting.” If that’s the case, a 50% reduction shouldn’t be the end goal.

Here is a quality and patient-centric example:

  • The goal: “Patients are seen by a healthcare provider within 15 minutes of arriving at the outpatient clinic on Saturdays.”

  • The improvement metric: “We will reduce average Saturday clinic wait times from three hours to 15 minutes in six months.”

The more specific and meaningful the metrics, the better the customer experience.

See also: Baseball and businesses need metrics to hit a home run

4. Deliver improvement

There is no best method, just that To the right One for need: a bite-sized improvement approach or an incremental but large transformation. The sky is the limit when it comes to delighting customers. For the airline customer, this can mean enjoying a first class experience regardless of their seat.

5. Spread and scale improvement

Once the idea has turned into an innovative improvement, explore other opportunities for application, dissemination, or scaling. The wheel does not need to be reinvented. If you already have it, see where else it could make a difference. The training investment is valuable as employees apply the improvement mentality and their knowledge to other areas.

Related: Continuously improve your business with 3 simple methods

Whether for a small business owner, an executive of a large organization, or an airline manager, a focus on continuous improvement will initiate a transformational journey that will continually evolve you, your people, and your organization for the better.

The focus on consistently delighting the customer will generate loyalty and increase sales. Higher revenues will lead to innovation, engaged employees and investment in development. Qualified and satisfied employees make fewer mistakes and offer an efficient and cost-effective service. Efficient processes will continue to delight customers and so on. Such a dazzling competitive advantage! Have fun taking off and traveling into the wondrous world of continuous improvement.

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