Articles


A Cycle of Continuous Improvement

Categories: Management

By Debbie Good | June 20, 2022 << Back to Articles A Cycle of Continuous Improvement

Lately, I have heard the phrase “new normal” quite a bit. I am sure you have too. The changes brought to us in the last two years have made us change how we see things and interpret what we think is a common response. Do we like the changes that came with it? In my opinion, it is all relative. What I might think is good, others may find it bad or negative. What I might think is the right thing to do, might not be for others.

But looking back, one thing I believe we can all agree on is that we had to change the way we did things. We can’t do things the same way forever. I suppose that is why we call it evolution.

We are in a constant state of change. From the day we are born to the day we die, we are changing. In organizations, processes were reviewed, changed, and improved. Tools and equipment were also scrutinized and improved. We were all running around trying everything we could to make sure we took care of the health and safety of not just us and our families, but everyone.

So, with that in mind, I took some time to think and strategize as to how my team and I can be prepared for the changes to come. Because it’s not if, but when, the next big change is coming.

I identified some key areas on the job that, if I pay attention and review them on a regular basis, might be of help to prepare and be ready for whatever comes my way. I call it My Cycle of Continuous Improvement. The areas I identified were: The purpose of my department, my staff, the quality of my leaders, my state of readiness, and evaluation of what I have. Let me explain.

Purpose

Do I have a purpose, vision, or mission for my department? Does the staff know and understand them?

Having a purpose helps with the direction I’m going and keeps everyone on the right path. Purpose also helps set long-term goals, creates differentiation from others, inspires innovation, and increases loyalty. Without a purpose, there is no identifiable clarity to where you are going. If you do have a defined purpose, take the time to look at it to make sure it is accurate. The purpose for last year might not be correct for this one.

Staff

I also concentrated on the staffing process from beginning to end. When recruiting for specific positions, I don’t settle for just anyone. I hire individuals with the right attitude and skill set.

Have a training program in place and making sure it is flexible enough to accept changes is essential. Training should be ongoing. It takes between 18 to 254 days to form a habit. Have flexibility regarding schedules and benefits. This helps in retaining the best employees.

And one more thing, don’t be afraid to address difficult employees. You know who the individuals are who may not be performing as well as they should. Continuing to employ them may be counterproductive to your purpose and goals.

Quality

I then turned to my leadership team. I wanted to ensure they were the right individuals for the positions they held. I make sure they have the following characteristics:

  • Motivate
  • Inspire
  • Listen
  • Communicate
  • Support
  • Build
  • Accountable
  • Caring
  • Trustworthy
  • Ethical

I also thought about the training I was providing them. Was there anything else they could benefit from? Remember, this is the team that was working closely with me and helping me lead the department towards the purpose and mission I had established. Also, I couldn’t be afraid of removing those that didn’t meet the criteria. Not everyone is a leader.

Ready

Now is the time to prepare and plan for the next wave of change. This could be as simple as a change in leadership or as extreme as another pandemic. I took the time to develop a plan and one that is flexible enough to allow for change. I know we can’t plan for everything, but I can come close and make it adaptable. For example, be prepared to adjust procedures, products, frequencies, and training.

Evaluate

This is the time for quantity. This is where I examine and assess that everything I just talked about is working for this specific period. There needs to be some quantitative data that documents the results of what you are doing. You want the results to show that you are going in the right direction. This data also helps prove what you are doing is working.

As I previously said, this is a cycle, which means that every so often, perhaps once per year, you should assess every area just discussed. You want to make sure the purpose is still correct and guiding you in the right direction, the staff is what is needed, and the training is applicable and always available. Verify that you still have quality leaders who are willing and able to evolve and that you have dealt with those employees who are not moving forward with you.

Part of my purpose is improving, and this constant cycle helps with that. I challenge you to take the time to try it!


About the Author.

Debbie Good, MESRE, is the IEHA southeast district director.