Organizations that fail to continuously improve their capabilities will inevitably fade away. Creating a culture that is continually learning and growing is essential to the future of your organization.
Creating this type of an organization is a leader’s job – it can’t be outsourced.
Let’s face it… In many organizations, employees have become so entrenched with how they have historically done things that they fail to look for better ways to perform. Sure, some have tried to implement continuous improvement efforts like total quality management or six sigma. Although laudable, few of these efforts have managed to become ingrained in the culture. This often occurs not because the initiative was a bad idea, but because the implementation approach was flawed.
You can’t set-up an office to manage these initiatives and expect the culture to be driven by an isolated team separate from the leaders and team members who touch the work everyday. This outside in approach simply doesn’t work. Putting it simply – you can’t outsource continuous improvement. After all, what happens when the effort stalls or runs headlong into another goal?
Maybe you are saying, “that might be true for other organizations, but we are flexible, nimble, alert to change, and constantly improving everything that they do.”
If that’s true, then you are the exception. A global survey of companies in all major industries finds that more than 60 percent have tried and failed to implement continuous improvement systems, and that doesn’t even count those who haven’t tried. Those who have succeeded cite leadership commitment as by far the major reason for their success, and those who have failed (surprise!) overwhelmingly point to leaders’ lack of commitment as the cause of the failure (88 percent!).
What about your team…
· Do you work for an organization that continually improving?
· Does your own team have a systematic approach to improving what they do?
· Do you have evidence that your core processes are getting better all the time?
And, what about yourself…
· Are you mentally and physically sharp?
· Are you a “continuous learner”?
· Do you work to keep your most important relationships healthy?
I encourage you to answer these questions on your own. Then, ask your teammates to answer them. The conversations that your answers spark may just what you need to get things moving in the right direction.
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<FN> J.V. Kovach, et al. “The Use of Continuous Improvement Techniques: A Survey-Based Study of Current Practices,” International Journal of Engineering, Science and Technology, vol. 3, no. 7 (2011), 89-100.
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.