So you want to tackle continuous improvement, you have many things that could use an efficiency boost, you have people willing to help… So where do you start with all this?
Treat continuous improvement as a project
It’s the same core idea as changing a website, it’s a project! So if you keep this in mind, you will have an easier time figuring this out. Just like you would with your project, start planning.
First you would normally gather your client’s needs. Here, your clients are probably your colleagues, or maybe even just you. You need to gather requirements and create a list of all the ideas to improve anything around you.
To help you, gather feedback and ideas from others, don’t limit yourself to your ideas only. Although I’m sure you have many great ideas, you will find that most ideas you will want (or need) to fight for will come from others.
From there, just like managing a project and it’s many tasks, you have to prioritize, and assign people responsible for those tasks.
This can be tricky if you have no authority or power inside the team. If this is the case, than gaining managers’ buy-in can prove to be very useful. Show them the list you made and explain how it can positively affect the team to improve certain aspects of your daily lives.
This buy-in will help obtain the resources needed to make the improvements.
Once improvements have been clarified and resources are available, set objectives of when they can be done, just like you would when managing your project. Here, you’ll want to create a schedule. Note that it’s not impossible that creating the schedule may come before finding resources, this can actually be a tool to gain buy-in by showing that the change can be done within only one month for example.
By the way, as the work gets done, you will probably have to adjust that schedule too, just like you would a normal project, maybe even more, as mentioned, it will often be pushed aside by other projects that are considered more important, so you have to work around that. It’s nothing new in the project management world, so adapt to the circumstances, do your best, and keep communicating to your team until you are all done.
Also, you can even throw-in some risks management in all this, just like any projects, there can be risks that could be mitigated. For example, the new tool you plan to use could have a similar functionality to the old one but with a very distinct difference that may frustrate your team members; so mitigate the frustration by making sure to point it out in training and showing how to use it differently as opposed to letting them hit the issue and complain.
Making the change is half the work
As you work improving something, one important thing to keep in mind is that releasing a new tool, changing a process, or adjusting anything can be relatively easy; the next big step is maintaining it, which means, plan for what happens after. This includes training team members, giving support to the team who needs to adjust, or even having to make changes to adjust to feedback or issues faced.
The change/improvement cannot be simply “released” hoping that everything will go perfectly, it must be supported and maintained just like you would a mobile application for example, and you need to “fix bugs”.
So again, threat all this as you would when managing a project. Here, you would manage stakeholder expectations, plan maintenance, plan post-launch fixes, etc.
An important thing here is too always keep gathering feedback and improve the change with it (yes, you will need to change the change!). Mobile apps developer use the precious feedback given in the app-store and update their mobile application accordingly; this makes their app much more popular amongst the users. Here it’s the same thing, don’t think feedback was important only before the change, it’s just as important after as it will help people keep the change rather than requesting to go back to what it was before.
Stay tuned for part 3!