8 Steps to Get People in a Continuous Improvement Mindset

One of the most challenging jobs I’ve had is converting a company culture from a R&D to production mindset.  This means everyone has to stop thinking of each project as a unique event and start thinking about how to standardize the work and eliminate waste to reduce costs and lead time as quickly as possible.  This can be done not just on a repeatable manufactured product, but also on processes or projects, as with construction, that have a lot of commonality between jobs although the duration/scope may be slightly different.

Kickstart this process by doing a short training on the 8 types of waste – over producing, wasting time, transport, processing time/duplication, inventory, excess motion, scrap and rework and under utilization of people.  What I’ve found works best is to get a cross functional group together and brainstorm examples by type of waste on the product, process or job you want to address.

I would recommend writing up everyones’ ideas on a whiteboard or using post-its on a wall under each waste header.  Once issues are identified, the team can quickly prioritize which ones should be addressed first.  Prioritization should be highest on issues that are easiest to resolve and have the highest payback.  Payback can ultimately be in valued in dollars in many ways including reduced inventory, faster cycle time (increased productivity), improved quality (less time spent managing quality issues), and reduced transportation costs.  I typically give everyone a marker and have them mark their top 5 right on the board.  The ones with the most votes win.

This exercise serves two purposes, making folks aware of what waste is so they can more easily identify and eliminate it going forwards as well as leaving the team with a prioritized list of opportunities.  An additional benefit is that everyone has a chance to vent on the issues they’ve worked through and feel included on the path going forwards!

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