An unprecedented 42% of the US labor force is now working from home, Stanford University reports. Amidst this incredible shift, many continuous and process improvement programs have been put on pause or have stalled out waiting for life to return to “normal”.
Instead of returning to normal, let’s return to a better way. It’s time to reenergize your continuous improvement culture in a virtual work environment. Here are three things you can do right now to continue to progress continuous improvement culture.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
The first thing you need to do is communicate, communicate, communicate. Develop a comprehensive communication plan. Share continuous improvement wins, lessons learned, best practices, tips and tricks, and share resources with your employees on how they can improve their daily work. The CI efforts need to stay top of mind. So, take advantage of every opportunity your company has to communicate with employees. Remind employees that continuous improvement is the way work is done…in person and remotely.
For example, you can use your company’s intranet or home page to communicate out reminders about continuous improvement values. Utilize your company’s daily or weekly newsletters to share ideas and improvements from within the company. Leverage those all-employee or all-hands meetings to share a continuous improvement message. Share a relevant continuous improvement tip or trick. Give your employees ideas to implement starting immediately.
Finally, prepare messages and talking points that can be shared out to all departmental managers or all leaders of people that they can communicate to their employees during their regular staff meetings.
Get creative about how to communicate continuous improvement and keep the content fresh. Just because you are not having in-person meetings doesn’t mean that continuous improvement communication should be any less of a priority.
No matter what industry you are in, and no matter what line of business your company is in, your business processes have changed, so continuous improvers can step in and help make the most out of those changes.
Reinvigorate CI Training
Second, it’s important reinvigorate your continuous improvement training. You can use two strategies to continue your CI training, even in a remote environment: restructure existing continuous improvement courses, or deliver new course content.
Evaluate restructuring the way that you provide your continuous improvement training. Instead of providing multiple-hour, multiple-day continuous improvement courses, shorten the training into segments that can be delivered over 30-90 minutes. You can deliver that same education in shorter chunks. When learning in a virtual training, it’s easier for your employees to stay focused for a shorter duration class. Plus, this gives employees time to absorb the material and implement new ideas before learning more CI concepts.
If your company is not ready to continue formal continuous improvement training, then think about changingthe content that you deliver. Instead of providing training on things like 6S, Stakeholder Analysis or the 8 Forms of Waste, refocus your training to address the challenges that your employees face right now. You can be very successful in training your company how to navigate virtual meetings, re-prioritize projects or reset their goals for the year.
Those training opportunities are a way to stay connected with employees, to continue those relationships and to find more opportunities for improvement. Even if you can’t provide formal classroom training, you can find ways to help improve the employee experience and the customers experience by delivering them training that meets immediate needs.
Focus on Virtual Processes
Lastly, focus on our company’s virtual processes. During this year, your organization has absolutely changed numerous processes. It’s time to go work with each department and perform an assessment to find out what processes have changed this year. Ask each department how they have adapted to the changing business environment. Discuss what process changes have been very successful and what process changes have not gone well.
With the successful process changes, formalize the processes, document them, and communicate them; share them with others who are involved in the process. If things have not gone well and their processes have not adapted to the new work environment, that’s a prime opportunity for the continuous improvement team to help that department work through those processes and adapt them.
No matter what industry you are in, and no matter what line of business your company is in, your business processes have changed, so continuous improvers can step in and help make the most out of those changes. If you can do these three things, communicate, communicate, communicate; revive your continuous improvement training; and focus on those virtual processes, you can continue to propel that CI culture into 2021.
For more advanced tips, watch our CI Culture in Virtual Work webinar.
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.