This is the third blog in our Transformation Journey series, which will discuss the 8 steps necessary to form a continuous improvement team.
This team is in place to manage the process and immerse the group in an environment conducive to implementing improvements in your company’s environment and culture.
In the last blog on the business planning process, I discussed the Opportunity-Benefit Matrix and the need to quantify a payback for projects undertaken to realize the benefits offered by your new ERP system.
With this toolkit, you were able to identify business process improvement opportunities, develop a feeling for the impact of addressing the tasks required to implement a solution, and finally, prioritize the projects based on financial impact and difficulty to implement.
Once all of these items of the business planning process are in order, it’s time to put your team together.
1. Form Your Continuous Improvement Team
This team is not a committee with the job of keeping an eye on the process. The continuous improvement team is actively engaged in defining and implementing projects while managing the overall process.
They are immersed in every aspect of the process and may be an active leader or participant in a project. On the other hand, this assignment is not a full-time job.
Team members who are high-powered performers and likely to become future leaders of the company should be among those selected. Clearly stated requirements should be mentioned up front so all team members understand the continuous improvement team membership is a special reward, and will be over and above their normal duties within the company.
Each continuous improvement team member should represent a function or process within the company and be fully empowered to make project-related decisions for their area of responsibility.
An ideal team size is 4-6 people. This will allow deep relationships and a solid sense of comradery to develop. Keeping the team size in this range will also reduce scheduling challenges for meetings and allow the team to manage internal discussion efficiently.
The flow above shows how the team’s role fits into the overall business transformation process.
2. Create the Continuous Improvement Team Environment
The team’s primary goal is to manage the Opportunity-Benefit Matrix (OBM). The OBM contains all identified opportunities in a prioritized format, including an estimate of the opportunity’s impact on the company.
Projects should only be actively addressed after significant discussion among the team members. This discussion should ensure a significant commitment to marshaling the resources necessary for a successful implementation exists. It should also mention the availability of said resources so the project can be completed in the allotted time frame.
3. Create a Balanced Scorecard of Performance Metrics
This step involves creating a balanced scorecard of performance metrics that will provide immediate feedback on the effectiveness of the implemented projects. I’ll cover this more in Blog #4, so stay tuned.
For now, it is sufficed to say: don’t focus on financial metrics only. These can be managed by senior management and likely already exist in your company. The focus for the continuous improvement team can be managed by measuring process cycle time, the productivity of a given process (outputs divided by inputs) and inventory reduction, to name a few solid performance metrics.
4. Set Up Regular Meetings
Developing a consistent rhythm is critical to the creation of an environment where the transformation effort becomes part of the organizational culture.
The Transformation Lead Team should meet at least bi-weekly to track the status of active projects. Weekly meetings will be warranted when new projects are launched or when obstacles to success are encountered. Attendance should be required at every meeting.
5. Manage the Tasks Required to Complete Projects
This step in the process is when real work begins. If you think about the many opportunities for improvement within your organization, most – if not all – seem to be worthwhile and will help improve the company.
But will they all have an equal impact financially? Can they all be done at once? How many major projects can your organization manage simultaneously? These are all critical questions.
Managed effectively, projects will be completed successfully and on time. If not, dates slip, frustration ensues and no one is satisfied. Stay tuned, I’ll cover this in more detail in a future series blog.
6. Schedule High-Impact Rapid Improvement Events
Everyone likes to be a winner! This is true for both organizations and individuals on a team. Meeting aggressive goals serves to embolden and drive all of us.
You’ll have several longer-term efforts in your project portfolio, but leave capacity for some short-term wins. A powerful tool can be found in the lean manufacturing tool kit, the Kaizen Blitz.
7. Telling Your Story Through High-Powered Communication
It’s easy to get caught up in the journey, but don’t forget to tell the rest of the organization what’s going on. A monthly newsletter is a good place to start. These can be easily supplemented with social medial blasts for special events.
An effective communication program will educate and energize the entire company. Over time, the communication program will cement the change process solidly into the company culture.
8. Develop a Solid Relationship with Senior Management
Last, but not least, it is important to keep your boss in the loop. The properly defined Continuous Improvement program will fit solidly into the company’s long range plan and support both near and longer term goals.
A report from the continuous improvement team to the management team should be a fixed agenda item at monthly staff/performance review meetings. This should be supplemented with formal or informal reports on the performance of team members covering both accomplishments and areas for development.
Finally, involve as many other members of the management team in both the Kaizen blitz events and longer-term projects. This involvement will serve as another means of anchoring the culture change throughout the company.
As stated at the beginning of this blog, you’re likely a bit intimidated when you look at the work involved in embarking on a journey to replace an obsolete enterprise software system, or perhaps you’re exhausted after the go-live of your recent ERP implementation effort.
At either point, the real payback for all your efforts will only come by driving the long-term changes in culture and behavior your new system will or has made possible. Making this happen requires the discipline to define and manage projects using the continuous improvement tools that are familiar to all of us, like Six Sigma and Lean.
So, get ready and have the success you deserve from your journey and stay tuned for Blog #4 where I’ll discuss the need for a solid set of performance measurements to guide your journey.
In the meantime, refer to a previous blog on the Business Transformation Process.