Jim’s Sixteen Principles of Continuous Improvement

Posted by on Jan 12, 2019 in Continuous Improvement, Process Improvement | 0 comments

Over the years, I have helped various organizations improve their operations. Along the way, I have heard and seen things that have either aided or hindered their efforts to improve. As a result of these observations, I have compiled a list of sixteen continuous improvement principles to share with you.

  1. Challenge the status quo every day. Don’t take anything for granted or be satisfied with the mentality of “that’s how we’ve always done it.” Employees get frustrated when they are forced to work in processes they know are inefficient and a waste of their time.
  2. Think process! How can you make this job easier for yourself, easier for other employees to do their jobs or easier for your customers to do business with you? Do you have everything you need to make the right decisions and to perform your task?
  3. Pay people to think. Get them involved. Ask for their ideas. Utilize all your resources to continuously improve your processes. People are more than warm bodies used to perform a task.
  4. Don’t make things complicated; keep them simple. Simple processes are much easier to execute consistently.
  5. Don’t worry about “what ifs.” Concentrate on the core activities you do daily and work to make them as efficient as you can. Your core activities account for 90 percent of everything you do, and the what ifs represent the remaining 10 percent. Too many people get caught up worrying about the what ifs, and they are never able to take the first step.
  6. Stop talking about what you want to do, or should do, and take action. I often hear people say, “We’ve talked about that for a year or more, but we haven’t done anything yet.” Stop talking, create a plan, make someone responsible and take action.
  7. Making improvements and creating change takes grit, discipline and daily execution. It requires that you get everyone on board, answering their questions, providing training, follow up and documenting your process changes. Making improvements is not something you do only when you have time or it is convenient.
  8. Don’t be obsessed with learning new tools. Concentrate your early efforts on the process and infrastructure you will use to make and sustain improvements. The tools will come as you gain more experience.
  9. Make people responsible for their actions. Hold them accountable for making improvements in their area.
  10. Make comparisons whenever possible by looking for differences between good and bad products, good and bad machines, etc. Leveraging differences will give you clues to help you solve problems.
  11. Think shift and squeeze to remove variation in your process. What set of conditions caused the process to shift? What can you better control to squeeze the variation out of your process?
  12. Focus on the 6M’s – Man, Machine, Material, Method, Measurement and Mother Nature – that cause variation, and TIM WOODS, the forms of waste: Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Overproduction, Over-processing, Defects, Skills, Safety, etc.
  13. Remember, if you don’t measure it, it won’t improve on its own. Data is key. As the old saying goes, “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.”
  14. Implement the least expensive, most effective solution possible. Try to develop several alternatives or options and see if you can combine them for an even better solution.
  15. Make sure employees are doing things correctly. Don’t assume that just because they’ve been doing the job for years that they are doing it the right way. Observe and conduct process audits periodically to ensure everyone is using the best method.
  16. Continuous improvement isn’t rocket science. Think about how you can reduce variation and eliminate waste, get everyone involved and then take action.

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