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5 Principles to Align Your Organization Toward Excellence

Lean Articles

Organizational alignment is critical for success.

Are you caught in a kaizen bubble? A kaizen bubble: a lot of kaizen events or Lean projects that engage a lot of people in improvement activities that lack strategic focus and consequently have no impact on organizational performance.

The kaizen bubble is a lot like being caught in a hamster wheel, there’s a lot of activity, but no progress. All kaizen events and projects (Lean and six-sigma) must move the organization forward. To accomplish this, team objectives must align with the organization’s objectives and all improvement initiatives must satisfy a specific strategic objective.

Here are 5 principles leaders can follow to avoid the kaizen bubble:

1. Communicate why the organization is adopting a strategic approach to improvement. Provide the organization with a sense of urgency to improve. Focus on the customer and the customer’s experience.

2. Create a simple but effective Policy Deployment system (Hoshin Kanri) to provide the organization with True North. This effort ties improvement projects and daily work to the organization’s objectives and helps ensure everyone understands their role in the effort. Here’s a quick outline of the process:

  • define and prioritize your strategic objectives
  • translate those objectives into tactical improvement initiatives
  • define appropriate measurements and targets-to-improve
  • create action plans including project scoping and project facilitation to govern the initiatives
  • identify the financial and social impacts
  • establish and execute the deployment process

3. Set-up a gemba walk-routine to go and see what’s happening in the workplace – ask questions – practice Kata, a series of leadership coaching sessions, up and down the hierarchy. Remember, Lean transformation must be supported, every minute, every day. Improvement will only be important to associates if they believe it is important to you.

4. Involve all departments in the improvement effort. Gains made in production/operations are often offset by inefficiencies in your administrative functions so be sure all support service functions are part of the improvement initiative to get the biggest gains from your effort.

5. Engage in value steam projects and natural work team daily improvement activities in every department. This ensures improvement happens inside and outside of formal improvement events.

Taking a scientific PDCA approach to your improvement initiative instead of a shotgun approach will ensure you avoid the kaizen bubble. Just like a champion crew team, everyone in your organization should be aligned, understand the organization’s goals, know the direction they are headed, and all be rowing in sync. It’s the only way the effort will be truly successful.

If you would like to talk more about aligning your organization toward excellence and how to take a scientific approach to improvement, give us a call. We would welcome the opportunity to share perspectives and our experience partnering at all organization levels.