Continuous Improvements Can Make a Big Difference

continuous improvement

Making small continuous improvements all add up and can make a big difference

Here’s a perfect example of continuous improvements. Back in the 1950s Formula 1 pit stops used to take in the region of 67 seconds. Now they take a only 2-3 seconds.

How have they achieved this?

By finding ways to make incremental changes, and refining the process.

Can you imagine if they only worked on finding and making those changes once the season started? They certainly wouldn’t wait until the first race to be making any changes.

But as we wait for announcements of a timetable for the end of the lockdown, there’s still time to take stock and review where improvements can be made to systems, process, and skills in your business. Once everyone tries to get back to full productivity there simply won’t be time.

But this might well involve changes for team members too. And people generally don’t like change, particularly when you’ve been doing a job the same way for years.

One of the objections you often hear is:

“But, we’ve always done it this way”

Can you imagine if Formula 1 teams took that attitude?

There’s a multitude of reasons why people are reluctant to change. And it’s not an unusual response to be wary of change. Whilst some might rise to the challenge you’re just as likely to have people who’ll resist any change to the norm.

However, I’m sure you already recognise, people will be returning with mixed emotions.

One way to help them prepare is to get them involved as soon as you can (without infringing any furlough rules).

Getting your team involved in this way has 3 benefits:

  • It gets them involved early on, and gives them a focus.
  • It taps into their perspective, which may highlight things you were blissfully unaware of
  • Because they’ve suggested them you’ll get far more buy-in to implement any changes that result

So, ask you team to come forward with ideas, suggestions, recommendations of where small changes can be made. Maybe simply shaving 30 seconds off a task that’s done repeatedly, freeing up valuable time to spend elsewhere; reporting equipment that needs repairs or upgrading; refining a systems that misses important steps, or need adjusting to reflect new procedures; removing a bottleneck, or simply devising a checklist or SOP for a routine task to make it easy to achieve consistency.

Be aware that when a task has been done a certain way for any length of time, unless it causes a major inconvenience people simply get used to things that way. Flush out anything that’s standing in the way of them doing a brilliant job or impacts them, their colleagues or customer in any way.

This often highlights frustrations they have in the system or with current resources, levels of authority, existing skills or conflicting priorities.

So, ask:

What would they improve if they could? To help people feel comfortable to make suggestions ask questions that allow them to take off the blinkers.

Such as:

  • What would you do if it was your business?
  • What would you do if we had an endless supply of cash?
  • What would you do if you had a magic wand?

Although all these questions might result in ‘pie in the sky’ ideas, nine times out of 10 you’ll end up with some ideas you can use in some way.

Your contribution

During the lockdown you’ve probably noticed a few things yourself. If you’ve carried out some tasks you’d normally have delegated to others in your team you may have come to realise that they’re not as straight forward as you thought…

Maybe the system is cumbersome, the equipment used doesn’t function as well as it should, or the process simply doesn’t deliver the result you want.

If it has,  you might be left wondering “Why didn’t they say anything?”

When you perform a task every day or every week you probably don’t notice when it takes longer than it should, or doesn’t work as smoothly as it used to. It’s a gradual change so simply fail to spot it. Which means that bit by bit it gets worse and worse and we’re blissfully unaware.

If this is the case, share your findings with the team members involved, but let them help to come up with a solution.

The more you involve your team in finding ways to make improvements, the more you’ll work towards a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.

Take Action on continuous improvements

If you only do one thing: Invite your team to put forward suggestions on improvements, however small.

“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.”
Mark Twain

Related blog post: When you stop noticing the cracks

Related video: Listen to your team


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