“The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.” – Albert Einstein
Communicating to Manage Performance & taking ownership of your behavior are key strengths in developing and cultivating a culture of continuous improvement. Inspiring each and every employee – specifically those closest to the front line – to find ways to increase effectiveness, remove waste, and increase efficiency creates the organizational equivalent of compound interest. Over time, the payoffs can be tremendous. Creating a culture of continuous improvement, or any other proactive culture, starts with clearly understanding what makes a proactive culture unique. The fundamental difference between a reactive culture and a proactive one is that a proactive culture empowers front-line workers to make local decisions, take action and then take ownership of the results – something normally associated with supervisors. For an organization not accustomed to this, this is big deal change! In a reactive culture, ownership of behavior is informally assigned to supervisors and/or the appropriate organizational department.
In a proactive culture the desired behaviors are supported and reinforced by everyone. The answer to who owns safety (or customer service or reliability) is ‘Everyone.’ You don’t get very far without your hardhat (or safety glasses or hearing protection) in a proactive safety environment – everyone is looking out for you. In a culture of continuous improvement, the same attitude prevails regarding waste, errors, and problem identification. Everyone is involved in the process and the focus is typically less on being the best and more on being better. It is in the process of getting better that they become the best.
Leadership should focus on three primary goals to create a culture of continuous improvement:
Creating a clear expectation of the desired organizational behavior. This includes the behaviors of the leadership, management, supervisors, and workers. Organizational culture is influenced by systems, structures and style of leadership. By knowing what behaviors are expected, the leadership can then align the systems and structures to support and reinforce those behaviors.
Clearly communicating through action that the front line worker is the critical factor in success.
Focusing on ‘Why’, not ‘Who’. Some managers use the 5 Why’s technique of root cause analysis to identify the source of any problem – and then eliminate the problem at the source. The front line workers become actively engaged in identifying the problem and then developing the solution. This intellectual engagement creates the sense of ownership and commitment that is at the heart of true continuous improvement.
If all you give is orders, all you get is order takers. Creating a culture of continuous improvement requires that the leaders lead differently and replace a culture of compliance with a culture of commitment. By reinforcing critical behaviors, empowering the workers, and focusing on why, not who, your organization can tap into ‘…the most powerful force in the universe.’
Leaders with the most impact are those who can build and successfully manage great teams. Every day, we help our clients and colleagues achieve their highest levels of professional presence and personal effectiveness. That includes everyone on the ladder, from company presidents to project managers, to staff members. Contact us at 800-282-3374 to find out how we can help you impact your own productivity and the productivity of your entire organization.
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