So what is Continuous Improvement then?

Earlier this week a colleague and I were grumbling about all of the jargon and acronyms around Lean and CI, and a general lack of plain English. “So what’s CI then?” asked another member of our group. Cue two red faces. Here were our attempts at explaining what Continuous Improvement is about:

“It’s about following the improvement cycle – Plan, Do, Check, Act. First, Plan what it is that you want to improve and why. Second, have a go – Do it! Thirdly, step back and Check how it went. Fourth, decide what worked and what didn’t, and take further Action as required. Finally, keep on going through the cycle until you get the results you want.”

“Make sure the team understands exactly what they want to improve and why. What will success look like, how will they measure it, and how will they go about it? Then put the plan into action – try it; experiment! Review what happened. If you like the results, keep at it – “lock in” the new “Best Way” through training, standard procedures, etc. If you didn’t get the outcome you planned for, what have you learned and what will you do differently next time? Make some changes, and plan your next approach. Keep at it until you get the results you want.”

So – how would you explain “CI” in plain English?

PDCA

The Improvement Cycle

 

The Number Seven Motivator – “At work my opinions seem to count”

In the age of smartphones, 24/7 email and social media it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by communications. Employees can feel it’s difficult to make themselves heard, and managers can struggle to hear people above the continuous “white noise” of messages. As a result, frustration increases, motivation drops and stress levels rise.

That’s when a simple technique – “Ease and Effect” – cuts through the noise, engages employees, makes managers’ jobs easier and quickly gets the best ideas turned into actions.

“Ease and Effect” sessions are one of the simplest, most effective ways to give employees a voice, to translate good ideas into action, and to sustain your Continuous Improvement activities.

It’s often best to start with a small workgroup – perhaps five to ten people – and be specific about the areas that you’d like to tackle. Give the team a week or two to identify problems and wastes (think of “The Seven Visible Wastes”), then bring them back together for a short brainstorming session.

Ask the team to rate each idea as to how Easy it would be to implement (Easy, Medium or Difficult) and how effective it would be (High, Medium or Low effect). Start with the “Easy, High” ideas to get some quick wins, then move onto the “Easy, Medium” and finally the “Medium, High”. Keep track of progress and see how quickly motivation rises and performance improves!

… and if you’d like some practical help to implement “Ease and Effect” in your manufacturing business, contact Andrew.Nicholson@ImproveMyFactory.com