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Continuous Improvement for Small Businesses

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When thinking about large organizations, it is easy to envision their inefficiencies. And oftentimes they are plagued with layers of bureaucracy, and stuff like continuous improvement falls through the cracks. How about small businesses and startups? Are you immune to this dangerous money sucking line of thought? Truth is, there are inefficiencies in every organization, no matter the size. There are always ways to improve, especially for small businesses who may not have the time or capacity to establish standard processes and implement a Lean culture. Let us help get you started transforming your culture by changing your mind about continuous improvement. 


 Why Small Businesses Need Continuous Improvement

Small business owners are busy people, they juggle a lot of different tasks and are always mindful of expenses. These are three reasons why small business owners often push off implementing new processes or new technology. It takes time, energy, and money to start something new when old methods “still work”.

By sticking with the way things have always been done, business owners are not maximizing the potential of their business. Companies always need to be improving to stay competitive, which is why continuous improvement is essential for all businesses.

7 Tips to Follow When Implementing Continuous Improvement

  • Know Your Goal

 The first step is trying to figure out what aspect of the business you want to fix the most. Ask yourself a few questions:

- What does your current business model look like?
- What are some key elements of your business culture?
- What do you want your business to look like in the near future?

Maybe you already have a few ideas of where the business could improve, but it is important to evaluate these types of questions so you can have a clear goal and action plan.

  • Observe Your Processes

Before jumping in and changing everything, it is important to step back and see what the current process is. Observe what happens now to see where it can be improved. You can even create a process map so you can visually see the current process. The more you understand about the current process, the easier it will be to improve it.

  • Put a Framework in Place

Having a strong framework in place is essential for your business to continually improve. You want your framework to provide endless opportunities for change and improvement. This is not just a one and done project, the goal of continuous improvement is to regularly update your practices so that your business is remaining efficient.

  • Make Training Ongoing

When implementing a new process, you will need to educate and train your employees. Again, since this is continuous improvement this won’t just take one training session. You need to create a culture of continuous improvement, which takes time. Nobody likes change, but it is important for the growth of the business. Ensuring everyone on the team is on the same page is important which is why it should be an ongoing process.

  • Increase Efficiency with Automation

Technology is a great way to improve your processes and make them more efficient. Replacing paper-based systems with electronic ones and automating things like order entry, emails, and file transfers are just a few examples of ways you can be more productive and reduce errors.

  • Recognize Efforts

Promoting a culture of continuous improvement means you should acknowledge the effort your employees are putting in to implement these new processes. You want all of your employees to buy into the new program and by having some positive reinforcement, it will keep your team motivated to continue to improve.

  • Start with Small Steps

What’s most important is that you take one step at a time. By consistently engaging in small, practical steps you’ll reach your goals. As a small business, you don’t want to rush any of these changes. Prioritize what is important and follow a schedule. Putting a new process in place should be done right, so there is no need to make a lot of changes all at once.

Written by Dr. Lucas Chesla

Dr. Chesla is a retired United States Marine Corps Officer who faithfully served over 20 years. He is an accomplished Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with a robust portfolio of projects from a variety of organizations. Skilled in teaching, project management, coaching, mentoring, strategic planning, team building, conflict management and public speaking. His passions include understanding and interpreting personality profiles and body language.

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