As continuous improvers, we should completely reject the idea of returning to “normal”. We should be embracing the idea of returning to a better way.
We know that COVID-19 has created some unparalleled, unprecedented stresses on our businesses. Businesses have had to drastically change operations. We’ve had to rethink the way we do business and we have had to do it with absolutely short notice, almost no notice.
But, coronavirus has also caused a lot of really good changes in our organizations. It’s helped us to see through a lot of unnecessary bureaucracy. We’re making decisions quickly, we’re getting approvals quickly, and we’re responding to our customers in a better fashion. Now, more than ever, continuous improvement professionals need to be on the forefront of helping our companies return to a better way, because of our unique, highly valuable skillsets.
We cannot “return to normal.” We must return to a better way.
Continuous improvers need to be the ones that are telling their companies that we cannot return to normal, that we cannot accept the way that we have always done things.
Here are three things that improvers can do right now to help companies return to better:
One great thing that process improvers can do with companies is to have “Lessons Learned” sessions. Continuous improvers must take the lead to have very thoughtful sessions with leaders, or departments, to help them think through and document, “what are the things that we have done that have been really positive?” and “how do we get those positive things ingrained into our normal business processes?”
Then, facilitate a session to set an action plan to follow-up on each take-away and engrain these changes into business processes.
Decision Making & Bureaucracy Busting
Let’s also reevaluate decision-making processes – has the company eliminated bureaucracy and unnecessary approvals? And should those changes become permanent?
Continuous improvers can help to document those improved processes, and then help the business communicate out those changes.
The RACI-D (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed, Decide) Matrix is a powerful tool to develop approvals processes. The CII Membership has a lesson and template to guide you through the RACID process if you need a refresher.
Improvers can be instrumental in guiding organizations with better overall contingency planning. Get your company to take the time to think ahead and plan for the future. As continuous improvers, we need to insert ourselves into the return to a better way plan. We must make ourselves completely indispensable because we have to have the skills to help our companies get there. We have the skills to help our companies do it the right way.
Developing processes, playbooks and communication plans are the process improvers bread and butter, so start using those skills right now.
Take Action Now
Right now is the golden hour for continuous and process improvement. The current environment is ripe for improvement, therefore, it’s the ideal time for improvers to thrive. Start helping your business return to a better way, right now, and drive towards a continuous improvement culture.
Author: Allison Greco
I created my foundation with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and MBA from the University of Oklahoma. Over the past decade, I have held Continuous and Process Improvement roles for Black Hills Energy, Williams, the US Air Force and BNSF Railway. I’ve started new CI programs and reinvigorated stale ones. Along the way I earned a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and became a licensed Professional Engineer.