Getting your organisation on the course of continuous improvement isn’t easy and it requires buy-in and corresponding effort from all levels of the business. Even once you’ve achieved this state, it can be all to easy to fall back to old, less productive habits.
Deloitte, carried out some interesting research into the idea of continuous improvement in an age of constant disruption, concluding that the success rate for this sort of effort is less than 60% because many organisations lack the commitment to really embedding the important principles upon which a continuous improvement strategy is based.
According to Deloitte and their report, the following five factors are the bedrock of any continuous improvement process:
- Persistent leadership– It takes commitment to deliver a culture of continuous improvement and leaders must lead by example when it comes to living an organisation’s values and behaviours
- Change management– Here, Deloitte refer to ‘real’ change management where areas of work are measured and monitored to track progress; this shouldn’t be something that is seen as ‘soft’ or an optional part of the process
- Manage what you measure– Deloitte also urge us to make sure we are measuring the right things, paying homage to the adage that ‘what gets measured gets managed’. In practice, this means measuring the areas of work that you’re trying to improve by entering into your continuous improvement strategy; this could be something like matching sales metrics to employee satisfaction scores.
- Use data- data driven decision making– One of Bersin by Deloitte’s big focusses is the idea that data is the biggest tool at HR’s disposal, particularly when it comes to effective allocation of resource in business planning. This recommendation correlates to the one above and encourages businesses to use the measurement data to devise actionable changes.
- Do less but do it better – This is an important tip that urges leaders to scan their organisation for improvement opportunities and allocate resources effectively. A state of continuous improvement isn’t achieved by trying to fix all of your problems in one go, it’s achieved by assessing where the need for change is greatest and prioritising those areas.
All of the advice set out by Deloitte is both insightful and accurate, setting up the first few rungs on the ladder to continuous improvement. However, there are a few further areas that I believe require further qualification:
- Using external resources– sometimes an organisation has to know when it needs to seek third party support. This could involve anything from reading up on online resources, to enlisting the expertise of an organisation like Investors in People to better people, policy and productivity practices.
- Culture– establishing the right culture is a crucial part of driving a continuous improvement effort. At the heart of this culture must be the ability for both an organisation, and those employed by it, to react quickly and innovatively to new ideas. An example of this would be making the most of new starters and tapping their thoughts on your existing practices. Their fresh perspective might yield useful insights into ways the organisation could work better. Being able to respond immediately to good suggestions is vital if continuous improvement is to take root as a business behaviour.
- Encourage innovation– before business leaders have the opportunity to respond quickly and positively to new ideas, there must first be a precedent in place whereby people feel that they can articulate these new ideas. Organisations who are most successful in embedding a culture of continuous improvement are those who encourage the voicing of new ideas.
Investors in People- Skipton Building Society
IIP Platinum accredited Skipton Building Society have been working with Investors in People for over 25 years, utilising this partnership to continuously review and develop their approach to people management practice a key part of their success.
Skipton used their status as a mutual building society to inform their approach to developing an internal culture of continuous improvement, seeing the benefit that this could yield both for employees and customers. This has allowed the distillation of three core values that guide Skipton’s approach to business: ‘Trust, Ownership and One Team’.
The values that Skipton has developed inform their approach to continuous improvement, as does their work with Investors in People. In order to improve processes, an organisation must have insight into how its employees and policies contribute to broader business aims.
In essence, the key to getting started on embedding a culture of continuous improvement is establishing a commitment to the idea of making your business better for your employees and your customers. The next steps are down to you and your understanding of how your business could work more efficiently, focusing on those areas and delivering results.