Continuous improvement is all about looking for opportunities to increase efficiency and doing so on a recurring basis. It can seem like a daunting process since a lot of people are not familiar with continuous improvement and don’t know where to start, but there are a lot of simple ways to get started. Here are seven examples of continuous improvement that are simple ways to get started yet are very valuable.
1. Think tanks
Think tanks are a great way for your organization to discover valuable ideas. Invite key members of management and supervisors to go over current processes and ask how they can be improved. Each participant can propose a solution, each proposal can be analyzed and discuss in terms of feasibility and cost. Doing this on an annual basis will ensure that business operations are consistently being improved.
2. Monthly Training Programs
It can be important that employees know how to work in a range of positions as it allows for a more smoothly run operation. Training staff on multiple positions can be beneficial if someone can’t come to work as it prevents any delays to production. Organize trainings once a month where you cross train employees and rotate them into a new position for a day so they understand the scope of the position.
Surveys can help gauge how customers view the processes and can offer insight into their attitudes. You can ask customers to tell you what the organization is doing well, what needs to be improved in the quality or service, and what changes they would like to see in the future. You can use this data to determine what areas need more attention. In addition to customer feedback, surveying employees is important too. You can find out their perspectives of how things can be improved and any pain points they are facing. Surveying employees will bring to light the smaller details that could be the difference in significantly improving your business’ outputs.
4. Time Audits
Time is something that can always use some help, there is always time being wasted. But being able to accurately measure how long it takes to complete processes can offer great insight into where time is being wasted and how you can optimize it. Solutions like automating approvals or reducing touch points can help prevent delays and bottlenecks.
Catchball is the idea that there should always be someone responsible for the completion of a project. Often times processes are not started and completed by a single person, there are inputs from various groups. Catchball ensures that whoever initiated the process clearly states the purpose, objectives, and concerns to others involved. This way they can receive input and ideas from other groups while still having one person who is held accountable for the entirety of the project. It creates a bi-directional loop with clear ownership where everyone knows who has the “ball”.
6. The 5 Whys
The 5 Whys is all about getting to the root of an issue. When something doesn’t go as planned, you ask “why”, and that answer leads to another why and so forth. Any underlying causes get revealed if you keep going deeper and asking why. Once you find that root issue, you can create a corrective action plan. We have a free 5 Why’s template that you can download here.
7. Visual Management
It’s always easier to understand something when its visual, the brain is actually designed to process it quicker. Putting a process into a visual dashboard can help you understand the process overall and make it easier to see weak points in the process. Process mapping is a great tool to do this, you can download our free process map template here.