The Impact of Culture on the Path to Continuous Improvement
Change Management is not a program with a completion date!
Most of those with limited “hands-on” knowledge and experience, working to deploy a Lean or Continuous Improvement program, associate it with identifying and removing sources of waste. The assumption or expectation in so doing this is that the company will realize greater efficiency and faster response to the customer. But this view overlooks a number of significant aspects of a Lean or Continuous Improvement program. It minimizes values of Lean that might be vital to the future of a manufacturing business. Specifically, a Lean process provides the basis on which a company can redefine its culture and it sets forth the foundation that allows the company to become a scaleable business.
No change or improvement will be sustainable unless it is part of the company’s culture!
Culture change doesn’t come when employees inside the organization are told to do something new or different. And culture does not change as a result of the latest training session or the mission statement that hangs on the wall. It starts when employees inside the organization begin doing “something different” and understanding how it improves both their working environment and the company’s overall performance. And it is sustained only when they continue to do this “something different” over time while continually looking for new improvements. As such, achieving a culture change within an organization is an ongoing process involving deliberate, intentional steps that start an honest assessment of the current operations and its culture and include:
- Development of baseline conditions and data
- Outlining the company’s core competencies to support the desired culture
- Clear, well documented Vision of the desired state
- Determination of the decision-making process (why change, what to change, who’s involved, how to do it)
- Understanding of the need for Structure, Policy, Process, Business Systems, and a strong linkage between all
- Delineation of goals
- Delivery of consistent messages throughout the organization
- Linkage of behaviors, goals and achievements to compensation
- Encouragement and reward for the desired behaviors and outcomes
- Frank discussion of tough issues that were frequently avoided
The mere existence of a company directive, an Internal Lean program or a new quality initiative by themselves will not bring about a culture change!
From our 20-plus years of experience, Synergy Resources has learned much from the successes and failures of manufacturing companies attempting to implement small and large-scale change initiatives without the support of an external facilitator. The following represents our Top Ten Lessons in leading successful change initiatives:
- Be cognizant to the fact that Lean or Continuous Improvement programs are a journey and not a destination.
- Recognize that for employees, it is the overriding culture of the organization that is the reality.
- Before you start, carefully outline an all-inclusive plan that provides the entire organization with a common language, common set of goals, and the appropriate tools for driving change.
- Clearly define roles and responsibilities as well as ownership and accountability relative to individual and team goals.
- Engage and empower the team and individuals to participate and contribute to the change. Make sure employees feel valued and understand how they can contribute to the overall success of the organization.
- Put measurable systems in place linking organizational goals to individual performance.
- Communicate regularly and clearly the importance of the program and the results that are being achieved.
- Show unequivocal leadership and consistency throughout the process and never waver.
- Rapidly respond and address performance and dysfunctional behaviors that can derail change efforts.
- Make sure your external facilitator and your internal champion are compatible and that they provide combined updates to the management team.
Remember, when working to change culture, employee involvement is essential.
Many organizations have declared their mission, produced vision statements, written goals, and claim to have embraced a philosophy or set of values that fits their organization. These assertions often include such underlying themes as empowerment, teamwork, customer focus, passion for excellence, accountability, quality mindset, and employee development. They are conveyed to all employees, reinforced in communication and are used to measure performance. However, when Synergy engages in strategy planning or various operational, quality or Lean assessments with our clients, we often find that there is insufficient structure in place to support the realization of these organizational objectives. During the interview process we find that employees frequently appear to lack a genuine obligation to their company’s mission, stated goals, vision, value statements and general philosophies. We have found that this is primarily because:
- The statements are long, vague and do not relate directly to employees’ work.
- Goals and values are only communicated once a year and then not mentioned again.
- Leadership actions fail to “walk the talk”.
- The management team is inconsistent in its actions and behaviors in support of the goals and values.
- The statements are constantly being changed or revised.
- The employees feel they are not allowed to participate or provide input into the process.
Such organizational shortcomings are simply a matter of focus. In an effort to reduce cost, raise quality, boost productivity and surpass the competition, management may neglect such issues without realizing the impact it can have on employees, and thus the entire organization and its culture.
Don’t “go it” alone!
Reaching out to a trusted business improvement partner to realize your full potential has become a natural response for many North American businesses. Synergy Resources works directly with owners and key decision makers of small to medium-sized companies looking to improve their overall business performance.
What our customers are saying…
“We engaged Synergy Resources for a strategic business analysis that made obvious our need for a more structured, more aggressive approach to continual improvement. While the diagnosis was important, what has been even more impressive is how Synergy has helped us execute a Lean implementation to achieve this end. Synergy brought a proven, turn-key system, with the people, the training, and the tools to get our fledgling program off the ground and gaining its own momentum from day one. Since then, they have continued to support us with progress monitoring, ongoing training, and trusted counsel to keep us on the right track. These aren’t just consultants – they’re do-ers, whose energy and enthusiasm have challenged us to speed our own drumbeat. We have achieved meaningful gains that we simply could not have made without them.”
– Douglas Hamilton, III – CEO, Hamilton Associates
About the author: Michael Canty is the Director of Professional Services for Synergy Resources. Throughout his thirty plus years of service he has used his vast knowledge and by applying various strategies, technologies, tools and methodologies, helped a large number of organizations develop and implement effective business strategies and processes leading to improved operational performance.
About Synergy Resources: Synergy is a privately held company headquartered in New York that has partnered with manufacturing companies for more than 20 years. Synergy specializes in providing products and services to help improve the overall business performance of manufacturing companies. With offices throughout North America, Synergy has more than 90 industry tested employees supporting 700+ customers. Synergy’s Professional Service team provides ‘best practice’ operational and financial services, supports software application training and deployment, and delivers hands-on Lean, TOC (Theory of Constraints) and Quality services.
Synergy’s Project Management Office (PMO) provides dedicated project management support to oversee our Clients programs and projects to ensure scope is maintained, schedules are achieved and budgets are managed. Synergy’s Technical Services Group administers Synergy’s Cloud hosting program, supports product installation and data migration needs and has a dedicated programming team that develop ERP product extensions to support customer needs.