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Did you know?

When Your Continuous Improvement Effort….. Isn’t

BusinessMan

When your continuous improvement strategy isn’t continuous, or worse yet, it isn’t improving performance, then you are losing ground to your competition.  

Not a good place to be.

Especially since you may not be aware how much the competition has already closed the gap.

THE OPPORTUNITY

Almost reflexively they look to the Improvement Gap and often fall prey to the latest silver bullet being advertised as the panacea to all that ails any business.  The truth is that the Lone Ranger’s silver bullet is just as mythical as the one’s being advertised in the blogs and on the internet.

Yet many managers try to cash in on this latest fad.  Unfortunately, what they find is that 2 years later they are no better off and are now two years behind. Undeterred, many look for the next silver bullet. My advice: cease your search for this silver bullet, there is none.  There is only good management, strong leadership, a solid dose of reality, hard work – and a little good luck never hurts.

THE OPPORTUNITY

You can see that there are two other gaps.  The Focus and Alignment Gap was solved long ago when the Japanese popularized Hoshin Kanri (HK) planning in the 90s.  If you haven’t adopted this technique – do so. It is absolutely a no brainer. If for some reason you don’t like HK planning then replicate what the US Army calls Mission Command, it is a carbon copy of what the German Army calls auftragstaktik.  These three techniques to align and focus a group are simply unparalleled and will yield amazing results.

THAT LEAVES US WITH THE ENGAGEMENT GAP

The key to both creating and sustaining a culture of continuous improvement lies squarely in the lap of management as they seek to improve the levels of engagement in their firms.  

Most managers think they have good engagement levels. This is seldom the case.  Typical engagement levels across the US are in the 30% range and for manufacturing they are even lower, around 25%.  Since most firms are in the 25-30% range and world class is 75% engagement; the gulf between what is typical and what is attainable is huge.  The engagement gap is the target rich environment for improvement that firms need to exploit if they wish to continuously improve and attain and sustain long-term, strong performance.

JUST WHAT IS ENGAGEMENT?

It is far more than a synonym for hard-working. Engaged workers have three very salient qualities.  First, they are physically committed, so they are hard-working. They have body commitment. Second, they are intellectually committed.  They are actively working to make improvements to the process, the product and the workplace. They have head commitment. Third, they are interested in the business and care that it succeeds. They have heart commitment.  

WHO NEEDS TO GET ENGAGED?

As for engagement being only a worker thing – as if the supervisors, managers and denizens of the C-suite were naturally engaged – is a myth.  Although management engagement is somewhat higher, at 35% it is nowhere near world class levels. In most firms, there is ample improvement room for everyone.

WHAT’S THE APPROPRIATE RESPONSE

Improving engagement fits squarely in the lap of management.  Through our research we have uncovered three groups of five attributes they need to cultivate in the business.  The first group is directed at answering The Basics to engagement.  These basics are: Do my people know what to do? Do my people know how to do it?, and finally, Do my people have the resources they need?  The second group is a list of five attributes we call, Beyond the Basics and they all address communications techniques to keep the entire workforce informed.  The third group we call The Five High Leverage Points and they address five critical aspects of management behavior.  These three groups are all management-created and management-controlled and if executed well, will yield world class engagement levels.

SOUNDS SIMPLE? THINK YOU ARE ALREADY DOING THIS

In our work we find the initial response of management to be, “We are already doing the majority of this”.  To which we ask, “Do you have quality losses, delivery problems, employee morale issues, safety concerns in the plant, productivity problems and/or other issues?”. If you do, then your engagement levels are in need of improvement. The coaching question is, “If everyone knows what to do, knows how to do it and has the resources to do their jobs….. why do you still have these issues?”.  

In our experience if a cold, hard, dispassionate and introspective analysis is made, you will find that all the issues mentioned earlier are directly caused by low levels of engagement and thus correctable.


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Lonnie Wilson
Lonnie Wilson is the author of Sustaining Workforce Engagement: How To Ensure Your Employees Are Healthy, Happy, And Productive and founder of Quality Consultants where clients include firms in manufacturing as well as the fields of education, healthcare, and other service sectors. Quality Consultants serves small firms as well as Fortune 500 firms in North, South, Central America, and China. Lonnie is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.
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