One of the primary pillars of lean management is the concept of continuous improvement.
According to TechTarget, continuous improvement (also known as kaizen) is defined as “an approach to work that systematically seeks to achieve small, incremental changes in processes in order to improve efficiency and quality.”
While it’s most well known for being applied in manufacturing industries, the kaizen concept can be applied to any type of work across any industry. And furthermore, a workplace that truly practices lean management ensures that continuous improvement isn’t just a management initiative — it’s a concept carried out by every worker in an organization.
But how can lean leaders engage their employees in continuous improvement? Here are a few tips and tricks to achieve worker buy-in on your particular kaizen initiative.
Clarify the End Goal
Sometimes productivity slacks within a workforce because employees aren’t clean on the end goal of a particular project or initiative. Or perhaps they need a little context to really drive home the impact of their efforts.
And that confusion can lead to miscommunications and backlogs in your workflow, impacting profits and project timelines.
Make it crystal clear how the organization is doing and how the efforts of its workers are impacting its performance. Maybe that translates into posting quarterly results and comparing them to your direct competitors to get a sense of where the company stands. Publishing these kind of big-picture results along with individual performance improvements can help give employees a strong sense of ownership in moving the organization forward and push them toward being more invested in improvement.
Nurturing New Ideas
Great ideas don’t only come from management. Your workers are often the first line of defense, and can provide great feedback on ways to improve an organization from a frontline perspective.
Encourage employees to put forward ideas and suggestions for improvements with an employee suggestion program. While this isn’t really a new idea, it’s integral to follow up on every idea or suggestion submitted. Designate a person within your organization to follow up, even if it’s simply to thank that employee for taking the time to put a pen to paper and submit their thoughts.
Provide Positive Reinforcement
When the only feedback an organization offers to employees is negative, that’s incredibly discouraging for workers. That alone can prove to be a serious drain on productivity.
Use your continuous improvement initiative as a way to provide positive feedback to workers on their performances. And to take that idea of positive reinforcement a step further, it might be worth considering instituting an economic incentive program. Performance-based initiatives can be incredibly motivating for many employees, as it recognizes them for a job well done as well as providing them with a very tangible reward.