Introducing process improvement means introducing changes. And with changes comes resistance. It can be due to fear of the unknown, fear of failure or mistrust in the organizational leaders. The list goes on. But no matter the reason, opposing change is part of human nature. So people continue doing things in a familiar (and safe) way. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to get your team to participate in process improvement and apply the changes.
Setting the Right Environment
Introducing changes to the process can often result in resistance and reluctance to participate. That’s why you first need to ensure you set the stage – make sure resistance to change is the first problem you solve on your continuous improvement journey. It may take time, but you must respect your team members, and you must respect the fact that different people react differently to change.
To make things easier, follow our five tips on getting the team to participate in process improvement:
1. Make Small Manageable Process Improvements
Getting people excited about major changes is rather hard. Big goals can be demotivating as soon as you realize how much work is required to make even a dent in what you are trying to achieve. But if you break the goal into smaller, more easily achievable pieces, team members will be happy to contribute.
Another key thing to remember is to communicate the purpose of process improvement along with the upcoming changes. Add process information into daily activities and business systems before changes happen. This is very easy to do using a Kanban board – just update the process policies, and add or remove columns and swimlanes. That will give everyone a chance to view and adjust to changes and manage their workload more efficiently.
2. Lead the Process Improvement Initiatives
No matter what methodology you use or how flat your organizational hierarchy is, if you want to encourage process improvement initiatives, you need to lead by example. Be part of the conversation, show visible support, and be among the first to adopt the changes. But more importantly, be part of the team and encourage collaboration. It also helps to create a strong super-user network that will help ensure other teams get on board with the continuous process improvement efforts.
3. Make Team Members Accountable
After you communicate expectations and train your team, give them the autonomy and resources they need to map, review, and lastly, own their processes and improvement ideas. When people have the power decide for themselves (and the whole team) their process engagement and creative problem solving increase substantially.
But you also need to make tam members accountable, you can set up dedicated time-slots for completing process-relates tasks, along with a set of guidelines for dealing with improvement suggestions and feedback. In Kanban you can add special cards and perhaps a swimlane dedicated to this type work and even include the ‘rules’ as process policies.
4. Be Open and Receptive to Feedback
Feedback! Feedback! Feedback! Be open and receptive to feedback I can’t stress enough how important giving and receiving feedback is. That’s why you need to encourage everyone to speak up, and in turn listen, when somebody has any comments, ideas or suggestions. Speak without insulting or over-criticizing. And listen attentively to what others have to say and try to receive it as a constructive comment. To make the most of it, take a look at how you can turn the feedback into action points that will help you improve. If you do take action though, don’t forget to follow-up and understand whether the improvements helped.
5. Lay a Foundation of Stability and Trust
Last but not least. Before you begin, make sure you can present your team with a roadmap for achieving (organizational) goals and communicate your expectations clearly and openly. It will make it easier for them to embrace the main vision and contribute to realizing it.
When people trust the organization because they know their input is valued and you implement solutions, they start to embrace the Kaizen mindset of seeing problems as opportunities for improvement. As a result, they will be more committed to look for improvements on a daily basis.
Make Process Improvement Fun and Exciting
Change in itself is usually very uncomfortable for most people. That’s why it can be difficult to encourage team members to participate in process improvement initiatives. But if you give them the autonomy to decide for themselves, communicate the needs and goals clearly and consistently, you are one step closer towards active participation.
Make process improvement fun and exciting by holding competitions, or by using gamification. Small incentives can be very motivating too. Talk to your team and understand what they enjoy, drive them. Then, use that to spice things up!
Ultimately, understand and accept that process improvement is a never-ending cycle. There’s always room for improvement. So make sure to create a safe space to fail, because with changes and experimentation occasionally you will fail. Learn to embrace the defeat, and look for a new way to win!