Wow! Is it remotely possible that only 5% of companies are successful at creating a continuous improvement organization? But, why?
According to a post by High Performance Solutions Inc., less than 5% of continuous improvement initiatives achieve long-term results and sustained improvement. Through industry member problem solving they determined it was human factors and lack of management systems that lead to failures. Actually, is this so surprising? The question we need to ask ourselves though is, why? After all, leaders want to improve the performance and efficiency of their organizations.
From what I’ve seen and experienced, the main reasons seem to be one of, or in combination of the following:
Weak or missing vision
CI not integrated into the mission of the organization
Not enough focus or experience to deliberately create a CI culture
Impatience to invest long term, which is necessary to change and/or create culture
Disconnect between words/desires and leader actions
Management systems do not align or are disconnected from the desired CI culture
Leaders don’t walk the talk
Lack of or inconsistent leader standardized work at all levels
Misaligned outcomes or benefits between the organization and the employees
Poor or non-existent “go & see” or gemba reviews by senior leaders to confirm the actual condition and gain engagement
Unfortunately, the list goes on….
Let’s learn collaboratively! What has been your experience as to why organizations fail at creating long-term results and sustained improvement? Leave a comment! Let’s do this!
Creating a strong CI team culture does not just happen on its own, unfortunately! There are 3 crucial steps to create any culture and if any are weak, so will be the resulting culture. One or all of these steps are often overlooked, leading to a weak or undesired culture.
I recently resumed “Open Office Hours” whereby I have time slots in my calendar reserved for impromptu drop-ins or phone calls from anyone within my organization. During one of these conversations we discussed how to change a culture within an organization which prompted me to dig up a mental model I used years ago when creating the “Lexus Mindset” to launch the first Lexus plant outside of Japan. Since then, I’ve used this same model to create Continuous Improvement cultures in other organizations.
Values – The first step is to determine and align the organization with the values that are most important, and desired or necessary to have in order to meet the mission of the team or organization. These values need to be well defined and communicated to everyone within the team or organization.
Behaviours – Next is to identify the behaviours that each member of the team or organization should exhibit that demonstrates the values previously determined. These behaviours maybe different at various levels and positions within the team or organization based on the role or responsibilities.
Consistency – Everyone on the team must consistently demonstrate the desired behaviours. Organizations most successful with creating their desired and sustained cultures are those where the members actively correct and identify unwanted behaviours and show recognition and appreciation for the desired behaviours.
Only when the desired behaviours are consistently demonstrated, are the values re-enforced, which then creates the culture sought after. When the demonstrated behaviours contradict or are inconsistent with the values of the organization, the resulting culture will not be what was intended.
When we used this mental model to create the Lexus Mindset, we invested a great deal of time and discussion to determine the values we felt were necessary to meet our mission. Once these values were determined, we worked together as a team to establish the behaviours that all members of the team would need to have that would clearly demonstrate and reinforce our values. We then developed methods that we could both correct undesirable behaviours or recognize the sought after behaviours. We made it fun and engaging at all levels. I remember my team pointing out to me a few times, with a big smile on their faces, “Does this behaviour support the Lexus Mindset?”. It was actually powerful and was very effective in changing our behaviours towards the ultimate culture we wanted to have. Not only did it correct poor behaviours, but it also resulted in open discussions that challenged our old way of reacting or dealing with situations which facilitated a faster shift in our thinking and ultimately our behaviours. We won the prestigious JD Power Gold Plant Award that year for the highest initial vehicle quality within North and South America, which I don’t think would have happened had we not created the culture that we did!
Excellence…. If you demand perfection of yourself, you’ll seldom achieve it. Fear of making a mistake is the biggest single cause of making one. Today, take a deep breath and smile. Seek excellence not perfection. Put quality into the steps of your work instead of constantly worrying about the final product.
Typically when you first start improving a process or conduct a kaizen, there are four improvement cycles or phases that one goes through. It’s helpful to know what they are so you can quickly address the issues that cause them, or even better, avoid them in the first place!
The first step before any kaizen or continuous improvement (CI) is to ensure that standard work is being followed and that the process is within standards. Often it is not, so the first thing that needs to be done is to either put them back in place, or if they didn’t exist, create and put them in. The lack of standard work and standards is generally the cause of the high variation that is experienced in the process. In this stage, if adherence to standard work has not been a priority, it is common to find that operators over time have created their own standard work with each one maybe doing it slightly or totally differently. This is what often causes the high variation. If you do not address this variation before CI, you will likely create higher levels of variation and your process will not provide a predictable result. It can easily become complicated and frustrating trying to figure out why sometimes you achieve the desired results after the CI, but not always. Once the standard work and standards are in place, you should see the variation in the results dramatically decrease and the process will become stable. Even if the process is not delivering to the desired target, it is critical to make the process stable and therefore predictable. Now you are ready to kaizen or CI the process.
Phase #2 comes after a kaizen when the process is now consistently achieving the desired target. The process and the results are stable and predictable. Everything is going well and the team starts to think about what’s next. This is the happy phase when the team is feeling good about the results and their accomplishments. Document the changes clearly, revise the standard work, make any new standards permanent (until the next kaizen), and provide the operators and the process time to operate and stabilize. If you are aware of Phase #3, then phase #2 is a good time to implement mitigation so that you can avoid phase #3!
If you are experienced at CI, phase #3 can be prevented, but far too often there is a phase #3. Phase #3 is a result of a weak or missing sustainment step or mechanism. After the CI the operators and the leaders get comfortable. They either stop or change the frequency of a key success attribute that was put in place during the original CI. An example is training. During the CI all the operators were trained on the new standard work and everyone does the process steps in the same order and same way. However, if the training materials weren’t revised, or the trainers were not informed, the result can be below target conditions with higher rates of variation. Or perhaps, the leaders didn’t add a key check or confirmation to their standard work and after a period of time missed a check here or there and perhaps eventually even stopped doing it. Again, this can lead to high variation and below target results. However, since all the CI changes and actions are fresh, typically you can recover from this situation very quickly and return to target and stability. Lessons are learned and mechanisms put in place to maintain stable target results. Until phase #4, that is!
After a period of stability, it is not uncommon for a sudden and unexpected short term unfavourable to target result. This is the result of an abnormality in the process. The abnormality may be one of the 4M’s – Man, Machine, Material, Method. With the focus and controls put in place by this point in the CI, the abnormality is usually quickly identified and corrected almost immediately. These abnormalities can also point you in the direction of your next kaizen or CI activity.
I’m a huge Disney fan! Not only from a family entertainment perspective, but also from a business operations, philosophy, and culture point of view. I had an opportunity to benchmark Disney World. Wow, what an experience! Too many lessons learned for one post, but the one thing for this post that we can learn from Disney is the power of visual controls!
The first time we took our family to Disney World, the kids were small. Traveling with three young children is a handful and stressful! We went the full Disney Immersion, meaning we got ourselves to the airport in Toronto, and they took care of the rest! Disney got our luggage from Toronto to the resort, transported our family via Disney Express from Orlando to the resort, we were fed through the meal plan, and the Disney Transportation System got us to and from all of the parks.
The power of visual controls can be exemplified by our first experience upon arriving in Orlando International Airport. We followed the very prominent signs to the Disney Magical Express area. We went to the counter where they registered us, checked us in, and looked after some other typical vacation registration stuff. Then the Disney “Cast Member” pointed to his right and said “Go to the red carpet”. I immediately followed the direction of his finger and way down the corridor, I could see a large red carpet in the middle of the floor. By this time the kids were going squirrelly with exhaustion, excitement, and anticipation. All of which can be the demise of the best of parents! This was easy! There wasn’t a string of commands provided such as “turn to your left, go down the terminal about 500 feet to the Disney Magical Express. You want line 7, which will take you to Port Orleans Resort. Make sure you get line 7 as you don’t want to end up at the wrong resort or it will be a long way back! If line 7 is full, go to line 8, it’s going to Port Orleans as well but leaves 15 minutes later. Have a great vacation.” No, all we had to remember and do was go to the red carpet! When we arrived at the red carpet, there were greeters there that asked us what resort we were going to. When we said Port Orleans, they said “that’s lane 8. The bus will be departing in about 20 minutes. Have a Magical Day!”
Go to the red carpet!
This was only the beginning of the effective use of visual controls that Disney had in place. They are masters of moving massive amounts of people to/from and within their parks and to do so as well as they do, they have mastered visual controls.
Other businesses can learn from Disney on how to use visual controls to improve their overall area organization, flow of materials, product, and people, and improve efficiencies. Effective visual controls assist with improving and controlling your main metrics of safety, quality, productivity, and cost. Like many principles of lean or continuous improvement, visual controls apply to all aspects of business or operations beyond only manufacturing.
Unfortunately, too many businesses use visual controls primarily only to indicate 5S home locations and basic information signs. Visual controls extend much deeper than this.
Characteristics of effective Visual Controls include as many of these as possible:
This example makes use of colours to differentiate between categories of binders and provides a simple pokeyoke or visual indicator that is simple to understand if the binders are in the correct sequence or not. Also very easy to put the binders back in the correct order after use or to re-sequence if out of place.
This next example is simple, colourful, and certainly has a pokeyoke. There is no way a car can “mistakenly” park in this designated bike parking area. The visual control also provides a safety barrier to protect the bikes and the riders from traffic.
In areas where a large number of people need to move around or through a complex area, or in large office or factory spaces, way finding can be a problem causing frustration and lost productivity. Visual controls can be an awesome tool to assist with effectively moving people around with ease. You can see these types of visual controls in airports, hospitals, amusement parks etc. I’ve seen them in some office towers and factories, but not as often as there is a need for them!
In addition to being somewhat funny, this is actually not a bad sign. Too wordy in my opinion, but it is visual and is a pokeyoke! Pretty hard to ignore and saves the bridge from those that “think I can make it”! These type of visual controls are also great for as a visual control to restrict forklifts or similar equipment from entering prohibited areas and are lot more effective than signs alone!
Take a hard look at your work place and see where you have effective visual controls and where you can use some new ones! A very simple yet effective tool but still far too under utilized!