Organisational Culture for Continuous Improvement

Ihave been working with leading Business Improvement guru,  Improve your organisation culture Tim Franklin, preparing the PR for his latest book which offers an introduction to Continuous Improvement (CI) at beginner level, encompassing Lean, TQM, Six Sigma and the other related methodologies of CI.

He was developing an analogy of a geographic expedition to describe Continuous Improvement. As you start out on an expedition, you can see the horizon clearly as being the final destination, but as you walk towards it, it recedes and eludes you, like a moving target. CI is like this in practise. In the beginning you think that you know the maximum benefit that you can lever from a particular process, but if you continue to revisit the same process time and time again, it’s amazing how your comprehension alters  Improve your organisation culture through experience – learning by doing.

Sadly, many organisations don’t develop this advanced comprehension, because they don’t embrace the ideology behind CI, they see TQM or Lean as a set of tools and techniques, rather than a different way of working.

By simply imposing CI as an additional set of craft skills, employees can become suspicious, wondering just what the hidden agenda may be. Just look up the word Lean in the dictionary – devoid of fat, sparse – no wonder that many employees think that it is another term for downsizing.

In Tim’s view, to get the best from CI, you need to have an organisational culture that supports the ideology – empowerment, no blame for trying and failing, good leadership with modest egos.

Given the choice of

a)imposing CI;

b)modifying CI to suit the prevailing culture; or

c)changing the culture to suit CI
guess which one most organisations adopt?

Organisational culture can act as an invisible force to repel CI introduction. Being invisible, management can misinterpret the lack of progress wrongly, and ‘throw’ more money or management time, or both at the implementation to try and establish a CI momentum, without succeeding.

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