3 Big Lessons from Continuous Improvement Leaders at PEX Europe Spring, London

Mark Ellis 30 April, 2018

Whatever stage you're at now with your Continuous Improvement initiatives, there was a lot to learn this month at Process Excellence (PEX) Europe Spring 2018, where practitioners and CI leaders met to "share and challenge everything you need to be a business of the future." We picked up three key CI lessons which we want to share with you in order to replicate success.

From manufacturing to financial services, from transformation and process excellence programmes to Lean Six Sigma, the CI leaders were presenting the ins and outs of what has worked in their companies' initiatives.

PEX Europe photo blog actual size

The biggest surprise of all?

Perhaps the biggest surprise is how universal the lessons learnt are, regardless of industry.

The individual, openly told stories of senior leaders from international chemicals group Solvay and financial giant Deutsche Bank resonated with the recurring themes of the event on what they have learnt after delivering CI for several years. Here are three big take-aways from PEX Europe Spring 2018. 

Lesson 1:

Support for your CI programme will fade without visual communication of tangible results

When you begin your journey into Continuous Improvement, you start with a few factors on your side. You can find quick wins that improve value to the customer. Curiosity and motivation amongst the team will be high because the initiative is new.

However, the initial enthusiasm will only last so long. The advice? Shift the perspective in order to 'keep things fresh'. At PEX Europe Spring, the case study presentations offered some unique ways to view your CI journey.

"It's a marathon, not a sprint", said Deutsche Bank. "And in the mid-to-late part of a marathon, you must find it within yourselves to keep going." Solvay offered a variation on this theme, saying Continuous Improvement is like skiing: "A long journey with lots of fun and some obstacles."

So how do you maintain engagement at all levels? Solvay felt it found an answer: visual communication of tangible results, across the business. When data became visual and shareable, "engagement went up at all levels".

Achieving this is a challenge. You need consistent collection of data as well as visual tools to communicate the progress that is being made in in teams and departments.

Lesson 2:

Data drives decisions but change really happens when you empower people

Another part of the battle is ensuring that staff feel empowered to influence change. This applies to every level of your company.

For example, Solvay understood that metrics alone wouldn't empower people to accept and drive change from the bottom-up. People are typically "overwhelmed with their daily activities". To cut through, the CI initiative was presented as a way to "solve problems". This won the hearts and minds of staff and encouraged them to take part in CI as champions.

To empower your internal 'champions' and keep them pulling in the same direction, it's essential to ensure that no-one's work is rendered ineffective. Make sure there are company-wide project management standards that are clear and easy to adhere to. To maintain trust, use a system that ensures all data is accurately rolled up to a 'single source of truth'.

Your colleagues need to be confident that their efforts are helping to make a difference. In Companion by Minitab, we provide the tools you can use to make this possible.

Lesson 3:

Without management buy-in, your CI programme will be an uphill battle

The speakers agreed on a recurring theme for any transformation project: you need executive buy-in but that is always a challenge. How do you increase stakeholder support?

In the case of Deutsche Bank, the company initially created a dedicated role of Global Process Owner to oversee and report on the success of their CI initiatives. For most companies, this simply won't be possible: the responsibility will fall under an existing role. Thankfully, there is an easier alternative.

Reporting to the top-level of your business requires you to present top-level visibility of KPIs and results. You need to demonstrate the value of projects and the impact on the bottom line. If senior management can't be confident in the reporting the whole CI exercise can come into question.

To overcome this and make the job easier for yourself, you need a platform that offers easy visibility of KPIs and consistent reports from across your CI portfolio. That's a key feature of Companion by Minitab.

Next Steps:

To learn exactly how to make your CI initiatives more visible, effective and profitable, check out this video.