How to Promote Continuous Improvements

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Every business wants to achieve continuous improvement, but getting making it a reality is challenging. The challenge lies with having everyone involved in an organization take ownership of their work and initiative toward everyone's success. You'll need a strategy to bring people into the fold and make them feel a personal stake in the company's success. Luckily, you don't have to invent or reinvent the wheel. Pioneering managers have been working on ways to make continuous improvement work for decades. You just have to find how their ideas and techniques can be applied to your organization.

Empower your employees to take on more responsibility and have more input. The empowerment management philosophy says that employees who are empowered to make decisions and take risks within reason are more satisfied and take greater ownership in their work. In essence, by giving employees greater autonomy and encouraging their independent thought, a company can get the most from their people - including make them stronger stakeholders.

Create incentives for improvements. Some companies do this with commissions and bonuses while others give parties or give away vacations and prizes. With greater rewards for making improvements, employees tend to start taking more initiative to ensure they have success to show all the time.

Celebrate people's successes. Acknowledgement is a major motivator and feeling rewarded makes people want achieve more and do it better. Managers need to take the time to give credit where credit is due. This can include a congratulatory phone call or note, flowers on someone's desk, a gift, tickets to the ball game, a plaque or a mention at a company meeting.

Give clear direction about company or department goals. Employees need to have clear picture of where their work fits into the big picture and what they can do to contribute to the success of the whole. Elaborate at meetings, through memorandum and in one on one discussions. Share the message and vision regularly.

Make failures into opportunities to learn. In order to improve, you have to understand what goes wrong and what could have been done better in any given situation. Challenge your people to do post-mortem analyses to figure out what could have gone better.

Challenge your people to look at what has gone right and look for what could make it better. The continuous improvement process needs constant coaching. Statements like, "I like the way you did.... what do you think would take it to the next level?" or "We did a great job with this product. How are we going to wow our customers next?"

Ask employees to recommend and help set benchmarks and targets for upcoming quarters and years. Soliciting input as to how things can be better not only reinforces continuous improvement thinking, but it creates another mechanism for employees to invest themselves in their roles and the company's success.

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About the Author

Eric Feigenbaum started his career in print journalism, becoming editor-in-chief of "The Daily" of the University of Washington during college and afterward working at two major newspapers. He later did many print and Web projects including re-brandings for major companies and catalog production.

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