In this post, we share our vision of what we believe is the most important area to successfully implement a Continuous Improvement Model, and why leadership is more important than the model itself. You can complement this information in our guide on how to implement a continuous improvement model.
Leadership: the key to success in the implementation and maintenance of Continuous Improvement
Throughout our professional careers, we have had the opportunity to analyze the implementation of continuous improvement programs in different companies. In all those in which continuous improvement was implemented and is still alive with strong development, it was due to the presence of a transformative, visible, committed leader who championed the continuous improvement program.
On the contrary, in those in which the start-up or, even the maintenance of continuous improvement had failed, it was unequivocally due to the absence of leadership. And this is not new, in 1985 Bernard M. Bass defined in his book Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectations that a leader should implement transformative leadership, and this is made up of four elements according to Bass.
The four transformative leadership elements
The leader understands charisma, transmits conviction and confidence, trusts, takes a position on difficult issues, and highlights the importance of commitment and ownership. The leader does not limit himself to preaching continuous Improvement, he walks the talk, demands it, and monitors its fulfillment and the collaborators see him as an example to follow.
The leader transmits clear objectives, develops a vision that contains attractive goals, encourages them to excel, motivates their collaborators to achieve results beyond expectations, the vision challenges their collaborators to achieve them, transmits enthusiasm, and acknowledges their effort.
The leader questions established ideas, suggests new ways of thinking and doing things, and encourages the expression of one’s own ideas. Continuous improvement is an endless process that requires permanent creativity.
The leader treats his/her collaborators as people, promotes personal development, knows how to listen, delegates, trains, and recognizes.
Why is leadership important for continuous improvement?
The presence of a leader is imperative to guarantee success. In addition, if it is not available a model for the implementation of continuous improvement, the team in charge will be operating in a series of isolated efforts, and will probably fail. Therefore, it is critical the fact of having a robust model and a leader capable of driving it. Unfortunately, this key point is many times overlooked.
Leader shop floor tools and behaviors
There are many moments throughout the day to demonstrate Leadership, we are going to cite some examples that seem especially critical to us and related to Continuous Improvement:
Review objectives and action plans
Through the Hoshin Kanri, we will be able to analyze the situation of the objectives, as well as the action plans with all the teams. Systematic meetings at each level of the organization (Top-Down and Bottom-Up) are critical. Especially important in those meetings is finding the opportunity of coaching through deviations, complementary actions, allocation of resources, etc.
Daily shop floor visits
The visits to the factory are diverse on a day-to-day basis, observing the performance of tasks, participating in QRQC-type meetings, following up on problem resolutions, carrying out audits, etc. However, the most important thing is “that they see us”, and that they feel our involvement in continuous improvement and the team’s recognition. It is advisable to have a coach (trainer) role for any leader.
Participate in Workshops
The leader as one more member of the team must participate in the different workshops or training stages of the continuous improvement model methods/tools. This is another essential point: help their teams in the role of Leader – Coach.
Recommended “best practices” for continuous improvement leadership
As we have indicated previously, a leader needs to rely on robust tools for the improvement model. mlean applications will optimize the time spent and efficiencies (we know that time is a scarce resource):
- Hoshin Kanri
- Standard work
- Visual Work Instructions
- Skills Matrix
- Routines & Gemba Walk
- PDCA and Action Plans
- Simple audits and job observation
- Improvement ideas
Learn more about our digital continuous improvement software
Request a demo of the mlean Production System and learn how we can help you implement the best continuous improvement model.