How to sustain a continuous improvement approach during and after changes

We all know that change is inevitable, especially in business. After all, companies must constantly evolve if they're going to continue to serve their customers. A business that does not change is destined for the dustbin of history. 

However, introducing change, mainly when it involves new ideas or improvements to existing processes, can be tricky. It's essential to ensure that these changes are effectively implemented and continue to deliver value over time. 

Introducing change can also be risky. It's possible that the new direction isn't a good fit for the organisation or that all stakeholders do not support it. This can set any change agent up for setbacks and even failure. 

So, what's the best way to sustain a culture of continuous improvement during—and after—organisational changes? Here are some tips to ensure any changes you lead are managed and executed smoothly, mitigating some of the risks accompanying change. 


Engage Stakeholders Early

Preparing for change and engaging all stakeholders as early as possible is a good idea. Stakeholders aren't only your customers but anyone directly or indirectly impacted by the change—your management team, employees, vendors, and others. Once you know what the change will look like, ask stakeholders for their requirements, feedback, insights, and ideas from the initial stages.

Feedback mechanisms that enable stakeholders to express themselves throughout the change process should also be established. That could include (but isn't limited to) holding regular meetings, surveys, focus groups, or workshops. Design your engagements to allow you to capture a wide range of viewpoints.

This will enable you to take a more iterative approach as changes are implemented. This is preferable to a top-down approach, as it can make the changes easier for stakeholders and allow you to test ideas and see their impact before you commit entirely to the change. By involving stakeholders and integrating their feedback, changes are more likely to meet the organisation's actual needs and be embraced by those affected.


Establish a Culture of Continuous Improvement

We've talked about developing a culture of continuous improvement, and there's no better time to work towards that than when an organisation faces significant change. Despite knowing that change is inevitable, it's often difficult to accept and manage. 

However, if you incorporate continuous improvement into your organisational culture, employees will be far more likely to see these changes as positive and make their contributions to implementation. This type of organisational culture values change and sees improvement as not a one-time event but an ongoing process. Ultimately, stakeholder engagement tends to increase overall satisfaction and support for changes as stakeholders' voices and concerns are addressed from the outset.


Start and Sustain Improvement

Getting started with significant changes and a continuous improvement culture can be challenging. But sustaining it over time can also be a challenge. That's why a systematic approach can be constructive in implementing changes and keeping them going beyond the initial change. Here are four approaches I recommend that can help to make transitions smoother.

PDCA Cycles:  Train teams using the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle that will allow you to assess and enhance changes.

Feedback Loops:  Design and implement feedback loops that enable constant evaluation of changes' impact on the organisation and its stakeholders. These loops should facilitate regular updates and modifications based on stakeholder input.

Iterative Review and Adaptation:  Periodic reviews will enable you to assess the effectiveness of changes and make necessary adjustments. Encourage teams to see these reviews as opportunities for learning and improvement.

Tools and Training:  Equip employees with the necessary tools and training to adapt to changes and contribute to the continuous improvement process. This includes training sessions, access to constant improvement software, and creating cross-functional teams to tackle specific improvement projects.


Want to be a more effective change agent in your organisation? I'm happy to help! Schedule a call to discuss your business and how you can instil a culture of continuous improvement. 

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