Laying the Foundation: Part 1

solidTonight, I’d like to share some tips for how we might all go about laying down a rock solid foundation in an effort to ensure our continuous improvement bear real fruit.

The most obvious foundational tip I can offer is to respect people – employees, customers, competitors, etc. But since I’ve talked about this numerous times before I will not focus on it tonight. To be sure, it is very important!

Tip 1: Create Tension

Instead, I’d like to start off with something a little different – and that is I propose leaders do their very best to create tension in the organization.

And, no, I don’t propose we all start yelling at everyone in sight. That’s not tension. That’s just being ignorant while creating way more stress than anyone wants to deal with.

Instead, creating tension means to constantly challenge the status quo. It means managers should ask their employees what they plan to improve each day, while offering up what they are going to improve as well. Really, creating tension means to never settle for good… or even great despite the clever name of the book.

Tip 2: “A means to an end.”

The next foundational tip I’d like to offer is to ensure all continuous improvement activities are focused on one thing – improving the business.

In other words, instead of worrying about how many people are trained or how many people certified last quarter why not channel this energy towards the metrics that really matter like lost time accident rates, operating income, and sales per employee (as examples).

This is to say that any and all continuous improvement activities – lean, six sigma, TOC, TQM, whatever – should be part of a means to a successful business end… not an end in themselves.

Tip 3: Go and See

Like respect for people, I’ve talked about genchi genbutsu many times before and almost left it out of the line-up this evening… but it is just so important I decided to call her out of the bullpen.

For those new to the blog, genchi genbutsu means to “go and see things for yourself first hand.” And, as it relates to laying a solid foundation for future continuous improvement success… it’s not optional.

Leaders must make it a point to go to the gemba, or the place the work is done, to see the issues (and successes) first hand. I can attest to the fact that this is not always easy… especially when travel is required (and your wife is due to give birth any day!).

Up Next

Tomorrow night I’ll offer a few more tips in the final part of this series. Until then, if you don’t mind me asking, what have you done in your organization to lay down a solid foundation?

4 Comments

  1. sam

    July 15, 2008 - 4:28 pm

    when we launched our CI initiative our CEO stood up and explained why we needed to adopt lean and six sigma. he basically explained that people in so called low cost countries were already doing it and if we hoped to survive 10 more years we had to improve. not sure if this is what you mean but it sure drove home the point. I was on board for sure.

  2. Ron Pereira

    July 15, 2008 - 10:16 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story, Sam. It seems there are many ways of going about this! I wish you much luck on your journey.