Risk Of Not Being Innovative With Continuous Improvement

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Risk Of Not Being Innovative With Continuous Improvement
Risk Of Not Being Innovative With Continuous Improvement

Risk of Not Being Innovative with Continuous Improvement

What!!! Did I use the word “innovative” in the same sentence as “continuous improvement”? Indeed, the word “innovation” is often used in conjunction with “product development” or “design”. However, I would like to present the idea of using innovation in your continuous improvement system.

Risk Of Not Being Innovative With Continuous Improvement
Risk Of Not Being Innovative With Continuous Improvement

Risk of Not Being Innovative with Continuous Improvement

There are several existing continuous improvement methodologies, such as Lean, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, etc. Sometimes just saying their names can cause great angst among leaders. But before you discount these methodologies and their tools entirely, I ask you to take some time to think about the “Why” in terms of why you and/or others are not seeing value in them.

Risk Of Not Being Innovative With Continuous Improvement
Risk Of Not Being Innovative With Continuous Improvement

Have you heard your employees say your continuous improvement system

  • Is too rigid?
  • Takes too long to do?
  • Takes too long to see an improvement?
  • Does not provide value?

When you hear these things

  • Is your reaction negative?
  • Do you know what makes them say that?
  • Are they correct?
  • Is it the system? Is it the people? Or, is it something else?

Having a successful continuous improvement system allows anyone in an organization to provide positive and/or constructive feedback. Any time employees feel comfortable saying something constructive about a methodology, it’s a good thing. When you receive this type of feedback, try not to take it personally or see it as a negative. There is usually something valuable underneath it. Taking time to uncover the value can be very helpful to your business, as well as to employee morale and support for continuous improvement.

In my experience, this type of feedback isn’t necessarily pointing the finger at the system, but rather uncovering parts of the system that need to be assessed. More often than not, an organization is incorrectly applying tools, or using the same tool for every situation, or causing people to have fear of tools because the tools are so rigid and unnecessarily time consuming.

While it’s important to create and maintain a level of consistency, there should be room to make decisions when choosing and/or applying a tool. Just like a mechanic assesses a situation before choosing a particular tool, organizations need to assess their situation before choosing which continuous improvement tool to use. Ask yourself this question: when you train people in your organization on a continuous improvement system, do you train them to use a specific tool for a specific situation, or do you train them to understand the situation and then choose the appropriate tool? In addition, if someone finds a better way to use a tool, and it works, are they rewarded for trying to be innovative or reprimanded?

Let’s use problem solving as an example. Is it more important to solve a problem in X number of steps? Or, is it more important to solve the problem, taking the number of steps that are necessary, if any? Answering this question is a pendulum swing that can lead to a stagnant continuous improvement system.

The following are two examples of the pendulum swinging too far one way or the other. Think about where you may be.

The first example centers on problem solving. As shown in the graphic below, swinging too far either way causes significant impact on the capability and efficiency of solving problems.

Balancing is surprisingly easy. One often overlooked solution for mitigating the pendulum swinging too far is adding an innovative risk based approach to your problem solving process.

Points to consider:

  • Not every problem is created equally.
  • Not every problem has the same risk.
  • Not every problem should be solved in the same manner.
  • Not every problem requires root cause identification.
  • Not every problem should be adapted to a tool. Instead, adapt the tool to the problem.

Another example of the pendulum swinging centers on metrics. We need metrics to be as simple and actionable as possible. As shown in the image below, swinging too far one way can impact metrics significantly. Metrics should be developed with “use” in mind. If it takes a significant algorithm and significant time to measure employee productivity, then you may want to revisit the metric. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when a complex metric is required. However, there are many other times when a simple and effective metric will provide the best path to the actions you need to take.

Points to consider:

  • Not all metrics need to be highly scientific.
  • Ask yourself what results you desire from each metric.
  • Ask yourself what action you would take if the metric you are using shows a negative trend. If the answer is “I’m not sure,” then you may want to reassess the metric.
  • Metrics should be actionable.
  • Do not adapt the metric to the tool. Instead, adapt the tool to the metric.

The examples above are just a couple of the common ones. So, how do they relate to innovation? Innovation used in conjunction with continuous improvement should be exciting, fun, and feel good! If it doesn’t, then something needs to change. Innovation can bring that change.

Here’s a simple way to generate innovation: bring a group of people together and hold a contest for the best way to innovate parts of your continuous improvement system. I can tell you from experience, this works! I have been a part of several significant improvements to systems that were a result of simple collaborative engagement techniques.

By taking a step back and allowing people to provide feedback, be collaborative, create innovative ideas, and make positive change to your continuous improvement system, you will see a positive impact on your continuous improvement efforts, as well as on your continuous improvement culture. Do not work for your continuous improvement system — make the system work for you!

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Next articleTotal Productive Maintenance or Lean Six Sigma: Which is the right methodology for my organization?
Jeff Kruzil
Jeff Kruzil brings over 17 years of experience in helping companies continuously improve. Jeff is extremely passionate about helping people and process improvement and strives to help customers implement strategic visions & strategies, grow talent, reduce cost, solve problems, and deliver sustained results for a variety of business needs. Jeff has extensive experience in Automotive, Pharmaceutical / Medical Device, Aerospace, and Insurance. He has worked for companies such as GE, Roche, Navistar, and Liberty Mutual. He is an enthusiastic leader with excellent motivational, analytical, and communication skills. Jeff will work with you to create and harnesses the power of a collaborative environment to provide simple solutions to complex problems, while yielding sustained results. INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE AVIATION -Senior Engineering Section Leader - Quality -Senior Leader – Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt PHARMACEUTICAL/MEDICAL DEVICE -Senior Quality Manager -Quality Supervisor -Process Development Engineer AUTOMOTIVE -Senior Manufacturing Engineer -Engineering & Maintenance Planner/Scheduler -Mechanical Engineer -Plant Engineer INSURANCE -Lean LMS IT Principal Consultant EDUCATION -Masters of Business Administration -B.S. Mechanical Engineering Technology -Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt WEBSITE www.findingvalue.weebly.com