In our first installment on this topic we discussed that we are all wired with a competitive nature and that nature can be harnessed for continuous improvement. As a leader your role is to direct that drive into something productive and not destructive through establishing coherence and a safe climate. When this is done effectively then getting staff to determine and track their own metrics (in alignment with the team and company goals) is the first step in creating sustainability in your continuous improvement efforts.
The next step toward this sustainability is about using the information that your staff have been collecting. This really becomes a milestone in the process of establishing continuous improvement. While there may be many ways of achieving this I have found that the most successful approach can be broken into two pieces.
First establish regular meetings with your staff or group around performance. If you are in operations that will most likely take the form or pre or post shift meetings that happen on a daily basis. If you are corporate it could be in the form of weekly or bi-weekly meetings. In each case time must be made for staff to report on performance in their area and discuss with peers overall group performance.
I cannot overstate the crucial role you and your leaders will have in this process! The nature of these meetings must be focused on group goals and performance in a frank and non-judgmental spirit. Demeaning or negative comments directed at specific individuals must be avoided at all costs as your goal is to solidify that safe climate. Your access to this crucial information is very much incumbent on making sure it is safe for staff to share it.
You will need to be patient as this may seem awkward at first. I have timed some of these initial meetings where with a group of 20 operators it took them a grand total of one minute and forty seconds to cover all the areas of operations! Yet within very short order, with the patient guidance of their supervisor those meetings grew into very detailed 30 minute meetings that left everyone informed and ready to perform.
As this sharing of information begins to take shape the second and equally important piece is the development of an opportunities list. Your group or team will begin to share information and often as one expresses frustration over one area another will have experience and knowledge to share with regard to possible solutions. I call it tribal knowledge - that collective wisdom that is dormant in the group and generally untapped.
A lot of this sharing of ideas will be informal but you will find as the group matures that more ideas will be generated for improving processes or performance and those need to go onto your opportunities list. This list will become a metric in its own right as you and your team move through addressing and exploring these ideas for improvement.
This list and what you do with it is the "gold" that you have been carefully mining for and cultivating on your team. It is the heart of continuous improvement and each and every idea regardless of how small it may seem has an actual dollar value attached to it. This can be done in small groups or it can be done across entire companies. There is no limit to this approach with regard to scope as long as you and your leaders remember to provide coherence, a safe climate and a challenge to rise to.