How to create a constant improvement culture
5 ways to practice a CI culture and incorporating it into your day-to-day routine
Just like creating and executing any big strategy, adapting your workforce to a constant improvement (CI) culture can seem daunting. There are just too many personalities to contend with, short-term hurdles, and the fear of losing an ounce of focus on bottom-line metrics and profitability can make it easy to put developing a CI culture on the “rainy day” list. However, transforming to a CI culture has obvious long-term benefits. Here are some tips to make your CI cultural transformation seem effortless and completely natural.
1. Good management is what your people do when you are not directly managing them. It’s your job to make sure you have the right people on board first – people who are not just competent in their specific role, but who are not afraid to hold team members (and themselves for that matter) accountable, challenge the status quo, and will not shy away from a little conflict. Start by getting your team together regularly to talk about high-level problems, share opinions, and even get to know each other better on a more personal level. Behavioral assessments are a great way to break the ice as they can boil down personality characteristics and attitudes down to objective data. Once your team starts collaborating and holding each other accountable, a CI culture will start to take root.
2. Foster a growth mindset over a fixed mindset. Carol Dweck brilliantly covers the growth vs fixed mindset framework in Mindset. As a leader, it’s important that you lift any invisible barriers that would prevent your team from thinking that anything can be improved. Some positive reinforcement, ongoing one-on-one coaching, and simply changing how you ask questions and provide feedback can get your team feeling that they are in complete control and can achieve the unthinkable.
3. Find wins in failures. It’s awfully hard to foster a CI culture if your existing culture leaves, looks down upon failure, and strives for perfection every time. Try setting new rules that’s it’s okay to fail, praise those on your team who are unafraid to bring real issues into the light, and encourage open discussion and debate about how to optimize and improve.
4. Focus on reporting and analytics. Make sure everyone on your team has metrics and goals set that they can benchmark track on a short-term recurring basis (weekly or monthly, but no longer). Make all reports and analysis publicly available, make your team members talk through the data. Not only will they start to unearth trends, but the more familiar they become with their performance and results, the more open they will be to adjust their strategy and tactics to achieve their goals and set new ones.
5. Implement project management cycles and get your team in lock-step. Agile Scrum is nothing new to development and engineer teams. It’s a project management philosophy that allows teams to complete projects and stay aligned with business needs. Although not all facets of Agile Scrum are easily applied across other departments in your organization, the basic notion that teams should be working together to complete projects within pre-defined timeframes, or sprints, can get your team working together. If you simply start by setting your team(s) up on recurring sprint cycles that are 2, 3, or 4-weeks long, you will naturally be fostering a culture that puts a focus on getting things done, but also inspires managers to use their team to tackle the most pressing issues – this is essential for CI.
Successfully changing your workplace culture is no easy feat. It takes time and lots of effort. That said, all cultural transformation must start from within if you want it to stick. I hope these tips help you realize that adapting to a CI culture is not as hard as it initially seems.