The road to Business Improvement may be well-worn, but it is also pitted with pot-holes, hurdles and challenges to overcome. However, if you can come out with a coordinated and effective continuous improvement function as a result, the journey is definitely worth it.
Research has consistently shown that organisations using Business Improvement are more profitable, have more engaged staff and regularly outperform competitors.
So if you’ll be starting your improvement journey in 2016, what are some of the challenges you’ll need to overcome?
Tightening budgets have been going on for so long they’re almost the new normal, but they continue to be an issue for anyone embarking on a Continuous Improvement deployment.
While Business Improvement projects themselves generally require little capital expenditure (just time and open-mindedness) there is a cost involved in training people in the tools and methods necessary to complete the work. Plus, training the whole team in basic continuous improvement is a key way to ensure the message becomes embedded in the culture.
All that training requires investment up front, and while operational excellence more than pays for itself, that initial cost can be challenging when budgets are tight. Our solution to this quandary is to offer our Training Bank, which allows businesses to invest capital for training, coaching and consultancy that can be drawn on throughout the year – with the added benefit of up to 25% extra training credits free. The Training Bank safeguards budgets and ensures you can get more for your money.
If you can’t afford to train all of your staff in continuous improvement, at least to some level, you’re relying on your existing skillset. The trouble is, with years of tight budgets behind us, everyone else is in the same situation and effective Continuous Improvement professionals are in high demand.
A lack of necessary skills means continuous improvement will not work cohesively across the whole company but will, instead, be relegated to small pockets of improvement. While this approach is ok for a new implementation while a company is still starting on its improvement journey, in the long term it sends a message to staff that it’s not a priority for the business.
This is linked to the two previous challenges. Failure to invest in training and in developing the skills necessary in the long term provides the short term advantage of higher cash-flow now. However, the business will need to make those investments eventually if it is to improve in the future.
Short-termism is also a challenge for those already implementing continuous improvement; professionals in the industry report that their firms are focusing on quick wins and low-hanging fruit rather than long-term problems. Tackling quick wins first can give an improvement implementation much needed energy and momentum, but avoid working on the real issues for too long and the whole project will lose credibility.
Another challenge for those already on their improvement journey is the shift in focus it requires. The majority of employees in most organisations are focused just on completing their tasks, and often don’t consider the process before or after their input.
Implementing Operational Excellence requires a move from this siloed view, to an understanding of the process as a whole and how one change impacts the customer in the end. Businesses reach a difficult period of change when this process begins, but is not uniform across the company. It can cause frustration as people working on the same process struggle with conflicting views of what is important to the role. Careful management is necessary to prevent indifference turning to resistance at this stage.
Once you’ve completed a few successful projects as part of your implementation, won over the staff and seen a return on your investment it’s easy to sit back and admire your good work. It’s great to congratulate people on their successes, but don’t relax for too long.
A key challenge is sustaining the improvement you’ve generated. Organisations need to put steps in place to ensure that processes do not revert back to inefficiency, and that the teams are continuously looking for new ways to improve.
If you can overcome or work through these key challenges in 2016, you’ll be well on your way to long-term, sustainable business improvement.
Get in touch on 0800 066 3749 or click below to find out more about how the Training Bank can help you maximise your training budget and increase your chances of success.