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How to Scale Continuous Improvement Across the Organization
Great leaders continuously commit to strengthening their inner and outer core leadership competencies. I have pointed this out in several of my books. The constant need to improve is the hallmark of the type of leader companies desperately need in this day and age.
How do you scale this attitude across your organization, shaping it into a culture of continuous improvement?
Leaders cannot afford to stick to their comfort zones.
What is Continuous Improvement?
Continuous improvement is finding a method that works and then looking for ways to make it work better. A CEO coach will break this approach down to four distinct steps:
- Planning or finding the method that works.
- Doing or putting it into practice.
- Checking or analyzing the results the method produces.
- Tweaking or using the conclusions of the previous step to improve the method.
As a leader looking to instill a culture of continuous improvement across your organization, you need to recognize that a sweeping leadership change is the indispensable precursor of this process.
Leaders across the ranks of your company need to adopt new behaviors and new leader standard work.
Years of executive coaching have helped me identify four leader behaviors you need to promote to successfully scale the improvement culture.
- Focusing on results.
- Solving problems effectively.
- Seeking different, unconventional perspectives.
- Being supportive, emphatic.
This blueprint is very simple. Translating it into practice is trickier, however.
Being reluctant to leave your comfort zone is basic human nature. We naturally gravitate toward the known, while the unknown unsettles us. Thus, your most important mission as a leader is to turn these behaviors from a burden into a routine. Failing to accomplish that usually means that your efforts to instill a culture of continuous improvement will fail.
Define Leader Standard Work and Announce it Every Day
Your leaders/reports need to know what you expect of them results-wise. You also need to make it clear to them what the mentioned leader behaviors mean in the context of your organization, right down to the practical level.
Thus, you will help your leaders reorganize their schedules around the new requirements, eventually absorbing them into their routines.
Portable insights streamline communication.
Optimize the Activities of your Leaders
Just having your leaders automatically ‘do the rounds’ does not mean much. They need to be able to develop insights and add value. You need to shake up the foundations of how your leaders communicate with their reports.
Giving your leaders portable insights (such as tablet-based analytics) is one way to accomplish this goal. That allows them to analyze data and communicate with their teams in real-time, instead of sending out emails after analysis and communication.
Be Relentless with your Improvement Efforts
It is the nature of improvement to plateau quickly. Once your leaders identify opportunities through declining metrics and address them, improvement will likely be impressive.
It will also stop dead in its tracks unless you and your team up your efforts to continue to improve. Look at stagnant metrics and eliminate inefficiencies tied to them.
Do Not Lose Sight of your Self-improvement
While busy scaling continuous improvement across your organization, it is easy to get lost in the immensity of the undertaking. Always remember that change, improvement, and continuous testing of the comfort zone are not just objectives for others.
As the source of your organization-wide culture of improvement, you cannot afford to hit a ceiling. Lead by example!
Continuous improvement benefits your business in many ways. More importantly, however, your organization can simply not afford to not improve. The days of companies getting comfortable behind their trusted brands are long gone…