Successful businesses rally their employees to act in a coherent fashion. This coherence is driven by a common set of values and beliefs. Culture is the foundation for these values and beliefs. Building a culture for continuous improvement doesn’t happen overnight. It takes persistence and commitment.
There are five steps to develop a strong culture for continuous improvement.
- Identify clear purpose and goals
The purpose for continuous improvement must be clearly articulated so that every employee understands the goals, expectations and implications for his work. Identify the specific aspects of continuous improvement that you want to focus on. Use concrete examples to explain why continuous improvement is needed.
- Communicate with passion
To demonstrate that the business owners and the management team are passionate and committed, communicate face-to-face with the employees. Use the opportunity to establish the value for continuous improvement for the business. Keep in mind that not everyone would embrace the idea immediately. It would take repeat messaging to get everyone on side. Be prepared to address challenging questions, particularly those relate to change and job security.
- Share excitement with results
As you gain traction from the improvement initiatives, develop a scheduled communication routine to share successes. The positive results speak to support the committed effort and it is an opportune time to encourage alignment that leads to further improvement. Share the experience with the whole company using tailored messages so that they are relevant to the respective areas. Employees are thrilled to hear about successes even though they are not directly involved.
- Leverage learnings
As there would be failures or less than satisfactory results, it is just as important to share the learnings. It is an excellent time to reinforce the need for collaborative effort to improve the outcomes. The key message is about the effort around continuous improvement. Be mindful of the tone of the message to avoid discouraging those who are directly impacted or involved in the work.
- Be a role model
Business owners and leaders need to display succinct behavior to demonstrate commitment. Continuous improvement needs to be top-of-mind in meeting discussions, setting priorities, and allocation of resources. Visibility helps to reinforce the importance. It is illogical to cut budget on training around continuous improvement when employees need the boost on the skills necessary to support the drive.
There is no short cut to build culture. It will take 2 years or longer to align individuals’ values and beliefs so that they will think and act in line with the principles for continuous improvement. Increasing the visibility of the continuous improvement work and outcomes is critical in your journey to increase engagement and commitment.