Continuous improvement is a quality philosophy that assumes further improvements are always possible and that processes should be continuously re-evaluated and improvements implemented. It is also the seeking of small improvements in processes and products, with the objective of increasing quality and reducing waste. It is believed that an organization must constantly measure the effectiveness of its processes and strive to meet more difficult objectives to satisfy customers. Continuous improvement is an ongoing effort to improve products, services or processes.
These efforts can seek “incremental” improvement over time or “breakthrough” improvement all at once
Quality management is a process in business that requires participation from everyone, from senior management to those on the shop floor. Quality management can only be effective if everyone participates and contributes ideas for the overall improvement of a business.
Without active participation by everyone, you are not getting everything you could get from the process.
You need to involve everyone; you need to ensure that you listen to everyone’s ideas. After all, often it is not just management who know how to make improvements. Those on the shop floor deal with problems on a daily basis, and this puts them in the best position to find ways of making improvements. In this section we will look at ways of working with your team to ensure that you are getting the active participation of all team members.
There are a range of tools that can be used to ensure that your team is encouraged to participate in the continuous improvement process.
In order to be successful, it is important that quality initiatives and the general concept of quality management is promoted throughout an organisation. Quality management requires solid commitment on the part of management and all staff members in order to be regarded as successful, and promotion is an extremely useful means of showing, and developing, this commitment. We will examine promotion of quality through a cyclic approach. In a sense, this approach can be likened to the idea of quality management, as it involves continuous improvement of ideas.
The four major means of communicating and promoting quality initiatives within an organisation are:
Many industries have very high worker turnover and recruiting staff and more importantly retaining them can be quite difficult to achieve. Having a coach or mentor in place can help relieve much of the stress that new staff feel when they begin a new job. New staff may lack experience or some of the core skills required to undertake a specific job and by having a coach or mentor there to provide assistance, you can assist in reducing the stress felt by new staff undertaking a new job.
The process of having a coach or mentor assigned to your new staff is not a new idea, but one which can provide significant advances in improving overall quality in the workplace. They also enhance the individual employees performance. There are a number of different methods that can be used when creating a coaching or mentoring scheme in your workplace.
The method that you decide to utilise when working towards improving quality in your work place will be entirely dependant on what you are trying to fix and the type of skills that are already present in your workplace. You may also need to consider the organisation and its culture. Some organisations simply do not have the kind of culture that allows for one individual to assist another easily without the staff feeling uncomfortable. It is therefore extremely important to consider the effects of the company’s culture on any systems that you may decide to implement into the workplace. Competition, for example, among employees for reaching sales targets or earning commission may mean that there is a lack of willingness to act as an effective mentor or coach.
Coaching and mentoring are generally used to provide on-job training, however it can be a lot wider than this. Coaches in the workplace can become an integral strategy in improving quality by developing staff on a continuous rather than one off basis.
How an organisational leader would contribute to and implement continuous improvement initiatives It is fundamental to the success of the Management System and to the implementation of continual improvement throughout the organization that senior managers provide strong leadership; visible and active support; and, demonstrated commitment.
To encourage improved individual and organization performance, executive sponsors should empower and make individuals accountable for their work.
The role of senior management in continual improvement includes the following responsibilities.
A specific example approaches used for continual process improvement (CPI): TEPCO – JAPAN In TEPCO the following 10 steps outline the process improvement methodology: