In today’s highly competitive and dynamic environment, organisations need to continuously change their tactics to survive and maintain their competitive advantage. Advanced technological developments and globalization are constantly presenting organisations with new products, markets and challenges. As a result, your organisation need to be forward looking when formulating your business strategies. There is need to embrace change and not resist it.
The first stage in implementing successful continuous improvement is understanding the basic concepts behind it and also the benefits to the organisation. Continuous improvement is based on quality, process improvements and teamwork. Your organisation needs to identify the needs of your customers first and then produce products that meet those needs. Also, there is need to leverage on technology. For example you could use IT for sending out electronic invoices as opposed to paper invoices. This will save time as well as postage money. As there is instant delivery of the invoice, there are higher chances that payment will be received early from your customer.
Furthermore, you can collaborate with your business partners to improve processes. One of the advantages of collaborating with partners is that the process allows sharing of ideas when it comes to problem-solving. Teamwork is also essential for continuous improvement to work. Remember, “Two heads are better than one”.
By promoting a culture of continuous improvement, the benefits to your organisation are many. Some of the benefits are:
o More efficient business planning: Because the organisation is focused on reducing waste, appropriate measures that monitor performance can be established.
o Improvements in customer satisfaction: When customers are satisfied, they become loyal to your business and will want to continue doing business with you. They can also refer their friends, family and other colleagues to your business.
o Reduced waste because of better use of resources: The saved resources e.g. time and money can then be channelled to other projects.
o Increased profits through a reduction in costs and an increase in revenues. Happy customers will always come back and buy more. They are also prepared to pay a premium for quality products.
o Employees are motivated as they feel they have to be innovative and creative to solve problems and improve business processes. Since continuous improvement is an ongoing process, employees feel challenged as they have to constantly come up with better ideas. This increases morale as there is a sense of ownership of the project.
The second stage in implementing continuous improvement is ensuring that all the essential factors for its implementation are in place. These include:
o Understanding your businesses’ environment: This will help establish what your business does and what processes you employ to achieve your goals. An evaluation of these processes will allow for continuous improvements.
o Commitment from senior management: Senior managers need not just do the talking, but they should walk the journey too. This is necessary for motivating employees.
o Ongoing monitoring of performance and contribution of employees: Are the employees meeting the targets set or they are missing them? If they are missing targets, are they missing narrowly or not? The extent of the miss will allow for improvements to take place.
o Good communications throughout the organisation: Everyone should be aware of what the organisation is trying to achieve and their role in achieving the organisation’s strategy.
o Since continuous improvement is also about quality, there is need to have recognised quality management systems: You could have a group of employees from different functions of the organisation meeting up regularly to discuss quality and quality control issues. This will help in improving quality.
By regularly monitoring the above factors and ensuring that they are in place, your organisation will always focus on the right priorities, improve performance and maintain your business advantage.