Industry Report

Why some organisations improve more and some less

The article explains five fundamental elements need to be addressed and balanced when an organisation aims to drive and attain deep and sustainable change
  Over the past 30 years Kaizen has supported many organisations in their journey of Continuous Learning. While working with organisations towards this objective, it has been observed by Kaizen that some companies change more and deeply while some slow down or even stop the process of continual improvement. Why is it that some change more, while some companies change less?
The answer is not simple. There are many reasons – leadership, goal clarity, skill levels, tools and methods adopted to drive continual improvements, daily work practices etc. Five fundamental elements need to be addressed and balanced when an organisation aims to drive and attain deep and sustainable change.
1) Defining true north: The most common challenge is that true north is not defined and shared within the team. People have varying ideas on the goal. No journey can begin and end successfully unless there is clarity on the goals and that is shared and accepted by all stakeholders.2) Ensuring support and governance: The next key is providing the support structure that is required for deployment, promotion, monitoring and sustenance of an improvement culture. It consists of a clear roadmap, regular audits, skill building, dedicated internal champions, a change leader and a project management cell.3) Engaging leadership: Change has to be co-created, with engagement and contribution from the leadership.This engagement includes going to the Gemba (real place or workplace), changing their own skill sets and redefining their paradigms.4) Problem solving: Building capabilities to solve problems are another essential.  Unless a standard problem solving tool set or template to capture, define, analyse, ideate and plan solutions is adopted, problem solving will be unstructured and left to chance. 5) Daily routines: While often overlooked as trivial, changes in daily habits and practices go a long way in contributing to the overall quest of an organisation’s change process. Successful and sustainable change requires not only daily problem solving but also daily tracking of certain KPI’s, which are clubbed under daily management.
Often organisations miss out one or more of these elements and this impacts their change efforts in various ways.
For instance, a change or improvement effort minus a clear true north is nothing but a false start. A similar effort without the engagement of leadership will lead to an early death of any traction achieved, with the change efforts cooling off. Yet again, a change or improvement effort without a proper and adequate support structure suffers from poor co-ordination, tracking and governance. Furthermore, when structured problem solving skills are amiss, the change effort results in poor solutions, frustration and recurring problems (often with the same problems repeating themselves). Finally, with no focus on changes in daily management and routines, no habits that lead to sustainable change are formed.
The process of deep and sustainable change management can be compared to a wholesome balanced meal, which consists of a variety of food items; each taking care of the different nutritional needs of the body. Change needs the above five elements; when all of them come together they drive, attain and sustain operational changes and continual improvements.
Every organisation does improve at some point in time, due to internal or external challenges. The key question however is: whether an organisation can truly claim that it believes in and sustains a continual improvement culture where improvements happen everyday, are driven by everyone, and in every aspect of the organisation? 
Authored by__
Jayanth Murthy, Founding Director, Kaizen Institute India Pvt Ltd

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