As a leader you have established coherence and are doing a good job of interpreting the company to your staff. You have established a climate that is safe and incubates innovation and growth. You have allowed staff to set challenges to meet with regard to team and company goals. At this point your team truly has been transformed. They are clear about what is expected of them, they are collaborating and looking for new ways to improve performance and people are really pumped about the work. So what is left?
The last step to creating a permanence for your continuous improvement culture is to create an expectation that this work is going to be acknowledged and each victory is an opportunity for celebration. Sounds easy enough but the majority of change initiatives that fail will often fail around this principle. How many times have you seen processes or methods implemented only to note months later that things have gone back to the way they were before?
Like breathing, celebration should be organic and not contrived. I suspect that this is where most of us tend to overthink things and in making celebration too onerous we eventually fall out of the practice of it.
In applying this approach you will have created an environment that is rich with things to celebrate. Every team member is tracking metrics and you have a clear idea of the behaviors you want to see happening on the team. Make it a daily practice to look for those things and celebrate them with your people.
This does not have to be complicated. In one company I worked with a supervisor created a schedule to review the team metrics being posted. He would walk out to the metrics board once a day and review the results and just leave his initials on the sheet. No big deal right? One day after I saw him do this I did an informal check with the team and asked them if they knew whether he had seen their results? To a person they said he had. I know each of them had not gone up to the board to check but so important was it to the team that when one person saw it they would tell the rest! It may not seem like folks are noticing but they are and for them that kind of acknowledgement was a celebration!
If that seemed simple lets take it a step further. When you get out from behind your desk and take the time to simply go and see what your team are doing, its a celebration. This truth has been borne out by countless observations and if you have risen through the ranks you know this to be true - every person on a team can tell you which leadership spend time with the team and which don't. Sadly too often the perception is that the higher you go the less time you need to invest in the people who report to you.
Our goal with this process is to reverse for leadership what I call the 90/10 principle. Most leaders will tell you that they spend 90% of their time dealing with 10% of their staff who are under performing. There are lots of reasons for that but most of them fall into the false belief that we must be doing something right if we are spending time working to fix these things. But stop and think about that for a moment. What is happening with the other 90% who are doing their job? Typically nothing. Continuous improvement shifts your focus as a leader from diving into the weeds with the 10% group to celebrating and driving performance with the 90% group. Where do you think you will see the greatest results?
Most importantly celebration is crucial to sustaining your team's performance because nothing kills performance quicker than lack of recognition. We think that because someone is doing a good job we can let that slide but nothing could be further from the truth. Don't wait to make celebration some thing big and cumbersome, a pat on the back, a word of thanks or even just asking how someone is doing can be a celebration. Don't wait, celebrate!