Six Sigma principles and continuous improvement go hand in hand. Aimed to impart a wave of positive changes in an organization, the introduction of such newer methodologies can sometimes render traditional approaches ineffective. This can also be seen as the road to betterment as companies are forced to adapt to the changing process and embed in new variations.

Since rapid changes at the workplace is inevitable, the only way to keep going is to look for continuous improvement which has been looked upon as a highly attractive endeavor for many decades. Put together, an effective organization culture and toolkit for focusing and iterative improvement are required.

To make the journey easier and to implant continuous improvement as part of the organization’s routine, five well- established, tried and tested principles have been put forth for a smooth execution.

  1. Begin with the leadership

Continuous improvement aims at transformations and produces long term results. Since changes don’t happen overnight, translation of a long term vision and commitment is plausible only with the active alignment and involvement of a strong leadership.

Pitfalls: The early pace in anticipation of the setting of a new process grabs the attention of leaders but can eventually taper due to other impending changes in different departments of the organization. This can lead to individual managers imposing their own preferences and agendas, thereby diluting the long term vision that was supposed to be imparted.

  1. Change management should be taken in the real sense

As the saying goes ‘Be the change you want to be’, change can only be achieved when it is not viewed optional. Organizations should strive for changes to happen as transitions are measurable and critical to sustainability. Tangible results that can be seen, include the understanding and effective communication of the future vision and people accepting, adopting to the new policies.

Pitfalls: The real thought of embracing change comes at a later stage as many divisions would still not be prepared to take them. It is important to gauge levels of readiness and willingness among the workforce to align with the goals of the process improvement teams.

  1. Bring in Metrics

An effective continual improvement culture has a framework for measurement. These metrics in turn decides the value and the change that has to be brought in for the company and the customer.

Pitfalls: Some companies are still clueless to define what to measure and improve. Maintaining focus on metrics tied to customer value and quality is always very essential.

  1. Data drives the way through

Continuous improvement strategies are subjective to change according to every organization’s culture, challenges and goals. Companies investing in data –driven decision approaches, analytical and visualization techniques have more chances to succeed. A consistent and iterative approach is ideal for process improvement.

Pitfalls: Organizations lacking data-driven decision approaches finds it difficult to accept variation hitting them. Managers with aggressive or persuasive personal style often win, though they might be heading without an objective and unsupported by analytical models. This will lead to chaos rather than improving changes. Therefore it is ideal to follow the latest variable processes and tools to circumvent stagnant situations and stay relevant with the changing times.

  1. Focus on a smaller radius

 Since continuous improvement involves large scale transformation, top companies usually have a smarter approach to deal with this. Starting small-scale with fully invested and deploying pilot projects are the key to adapt to changes and deal with them.

Pitfalls:  Too many initiatives can dissolve the focus and result in less productivity with the workforce. It has been found out that effective organizations start out with continuous improvement pilots in one or two processes. They learn and adapt before expanding to the rest of the areas. This is the most successful and relevant way to implement the process.

With these 5 practices as guideline to rely, organizations can manage disruptive changes and ride on the improvement wave to accomplish their goals.

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Building a culture of continuous improvement in an age of disruption - Deloitte 

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