Updated: Jun 13
by Lauren Hisey
Since March 2022, or even before this time, we have dealt with a global pandemic that caused havoc and uncertainties! Globally we have seen our supply chains challenged, markets go up and down, and a considerable shift in employment with the Great Resignations. These issues have caused many organizations to think about improving operational efficiencies, finding ways to accelerate their Digital Transformations, and dealing with the Great Resignations. Organizations are running into issues with strategy, growth, and sustainability. They feel the crunch to move forward fast. Still, they are unsure how to get into the future without hurting their organizations and employees. It's leaving many leaders feeling doubtful and uncertain.
As I talked to more and more business leaders and my clients, I saw the same commonalities among all organizations. The size of an organization doesn't matter. I see the same thing from mid-size organizations to Fortune 500 and everything in between. The trends below are the same among all of them:
1. Growth and Excellence.
50% of CEOs require their companies to grow and achieve operational excellence.
2. Unrealize benefits…. lack of ROI (Return on Investment)
Digital Transformations are failing to deliver and losing steam. RPA (Robotic
Process Automation) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) projects are not delivering the
expected ROI. One of the main reasons ROI is not being met is flawed or lacks of
processes. Technology shows you how flawed a process is.
3. Lack of Strategy
14% of organizations are unclear about where they are headed and what goals
they are trying to accomplish. When you do not have a clear strategy, it can create
competition between divisions that causes mistrust and zero collaboration.
4. Talent Shortage
40% of current employees are not happy and are leaving their jobs. The employee
retention rate is going up globally as current employees assess their values and
how their existing companies fit into those values. They are also looking at ways
to advance in their careers and if their current employers can help them with
upskilling and advancement. It is not all about pay; it is also about the benefits
and how companies can help employees achieve their core values.
5. Lack of adoption and fear of job loss
As organizations are rolling out Digital Transformations and finding new ways to
optimize, they see issues with employee adoption and fear of losing their jobs.
27% of organizations are getting stuck because of adoption issues. Employees are
reverting to the old processes and not using the technology.
These current business trends are causing all types of issues across organizations. These problems are causing all kinds of headaches for business leaders. It leads them to feel the pressure to figure out the best way forward. While talking to my clients, they are wondering how to solve the problems they are facing:
• Unable to scale: How do they find the right to grow and scale?
• Lack of strategy: How do they remove conflicting priorities and redundancy?
Where do they start?
• Inefficient processes that are causing waste and non-value-added work
• Lack of governance due to a lack of a future state roadmap causes confusion
• Talent Shortages! How do they keep their current employees happy and help
• Rising costs due to all of these problems!
Can Continuous Improvement help with these challenges?
One of the most frequent questions clients ask me is how I can help them. While I can give general statements about how I helped clients in the past, it is more than applying CI knowledge. It is about connecting and truly understanding before I can provide observations and ideas. I like to tell my clients that I want to partner with them and their employees versus me telling them what to do. I help guide them along the journey to get to their Future State. Once my clients get past cutting costs, I think we can start the journey.
An organization needs people, processes, and technology to exist in today's environment, no matter how small or big and regardless of the industry. CI is a connector between people processes and technology. CI is industry agnostic and can be applied to all areas……yes, even to the front and back offices!
Instead of thinking about what methodology is better to use, remember that you should use the right tool for your situation. What works in one case may not work for another. If my clients have not used CI before, they often ask me about the best industry practices. I often tell them what I've done with other clients in a similar situation. We still need to use the right tools and solutions that fit their organization, processes, and people. I've learned that what has worked for one company may not work for another. It is not always about what is the best tool. Shigeo Shingo put it best, "There are four purposes of improvement: easier, better, faster, and cheaper. These four goals appear in the order of priority." Once you change your thinking to these four goals, it becomes easier to see that you need to find what is best for the situation. We often spend too much time researching complex solutions. Instead, we should find the best improvement that will help the business become "easier, better, faster, and cheaper." I also coach my clients to find the simplest form of progress first, even before buying the new shiny, flashy technology tools. Sometimes a simple process improvement and even low-code or no-code automation may be the best thing to do. Starting small and then moving into more advanced items is always the best way.
So how can CI be applied to help with these challenges?
1. Level up strategy and transformations.
Before anything can be done, leaders must understand their business intent
and what goals they are trying to achieve. They need to define their strategy
and then create a roadmap for now and the future that includes people,
customer personas, processes, and technology. The roadmap needs to be
transparent to all levels of the organization. It is about communication from
the top-down and down-top. Usually, the best place to start is somewhere
easy, like the back office: accounting or finance.
2. Current state assessment
This is not the time to debate which methodology to use. It is about
assessing the current state with the correct tools at your disposal. While
many hate using the "toolbox" approach, it is still the best analogy here. A
plumber can't tell you what is wrong or what tools he will use until he knows
what is going on. The same concept applies when using CI tools.
It goes beyond communication! It is about empowering and trusting your
people and allowing them to become a part of the solutions and Future State.
Doing this will increase collaboration, employee satisfaction, and productivity.
Telling your people that you want to help them and make their jobs more
efficient will show what the change means for them. It will give them a
chance to decrease over time and have more time to upskill. Investing in your
employees goes a long way toward having employees trust leadership and
the company. It starts to show that they feel valued, and they become
4. Business Optimization………….
You want to optimize your business process with process improvement and
technology to help get you to the desired future state! After knowing what is
wrong and including your people, you can then start to work toward
improvements. Solutioning or whatever you like to call it is all about fixing the
root causes of the problems. It is about redesigning the processes from end
to-end to remove the waste, non-value-added work, bottlenecks, and
inefficiencies. Use the right solutions that fix your problems.
5. Future State Roadmap and implementation
While the roadmap was created early, it did not include detailed solutions and
implementation phases. First, you need to update the plan accordingly, and
it's time to get to work! This is where you set up the program through all
Implementation Phases that can be grouped to allow you to use an Agile
format. Your organization wants to start small and ramp up. In my days at
Nielsen, someone described it to me as first designing the bicycle to get
started and then finishing with the fancy sports car. But along the way you
make adjustments through iterations to get where you want to go. Start slow
to get you on he journey to the Future State.
An organization needs people, processes, and technology to exist in today's environment, no matter how small or big and regardless of the industry.
Celebrate the successes!
As you complete a project or transformation, it is essential to celebrate the successes of each achievement. It would help if you celebrated what is going on with the group that has completed the improvements. It is also essential to share it with the entire organization. These successes and their celebration will get other areas of the business excited. Once you start implementing in one part of the company and share your success, others will want to be a part of the transformation. Celebration of the efficiencies, the people, and the fantastic work can be contagious. The entire group of people a part of this must be celebrated. It will show that leaders believe in their employees. Others will see that CI brings more than cost savings; they will learn more about improving their work areas to become more efficient and uncomplicated. It will allow them to be celebrated, be happier, and spend more time outside to be with family and friends. Seeing how their work pays off, the wins and celebrations keep people looking for more ways to collaborate to continue down the CI path. It can get contagious! So celebrate those wins!
While the business challenges that we face today may not disappear suddenly, you can undoubtedly use CI to lessen the impact you feel from them. As a society, we often want a quick fix to problems, but I think the last two years have taught us that these quick fixes are only temporary. CI teaches that we must continue to improve one step at a time and be willing to experiment until we find the right path. Even if there is a failure or setback, it does not mean you are not improving. You are learning what works best. It is these learnings and failures that help to achieve the best results. That is why it is so vital to understand the business goals. Once you know the purposes, you can start down the CI path with your strategy and transformation while connecting the people, process, and technology together. An organization can not exist without all three; it is the connection between the three that CI helps to bring together.
Lauren Hisey is not your typical consultant or coach. She uses a calming influence, Continuous Improvement, Lean Six Sigma, AI knowledge through regular conversations to help create effective change within any business. Lauren helps businesses to improve profitability and culture to drive sustainable growth. She has spent 13 years living and breathing Continuous Improvement as a coach, consultant, trainer, and speaker with different sizes businesses, universities, podcasts, and various networking associations. She has a passion for Continuous Improvement and loves to show others how to use it effectively in their businesses and personal life.