I’m often asked by clients how do I achieve a culture of Continuous Improvement in our organisation. And the way you do that is the same way you create a culture of anything in an organisation.

You do it often enough so people start to believe that, that is how things work around here and you need, I’d say a majority of people to believe that to have that culture effect. So, in order to achieve a culture of Continuous Improvement, you have to be doing Continuous Improvement. You have to be talking about Continuous Improvement.

It has to be something that has a focus. Something that has equal status to “How many sales do we have last month?” “What our customer service cost?” “What’s our cost metrics are like?” You have to talk about Continuous Improvement in the same way that you talk about all these other metrics. That’s the first thing. And it requires all managers to do this. So it can’t be something that’s kicked off by a CEO or a COO or another director and then let permeate throughout the organisation. It just doesn’t work like that.

So if you’re going to be the one who kicks it off, the COO or the CEI, you have to keep talking about it every month and when you send all point bullets out to staff you need to be talking about it there. When you’re talking to your exec team, you need to be talking about it then. And every layer down needs to do the same thing. So, it has to be in our monthly result.

We have to talk about the success we’ve had with our Continuous Improvement. Then as you go further down the organisation, it is increased not decrease and so for front line staff if they have a suggestion or an idea or they see some processes horribly, horribly broken and they suggest a way to fix it and the manager just shrugs or just says “Okay yeah, thanks” and does nothing about it then all the talk in the world at the top of the tree isn’t going to change your culture at the bottom where you want it to really change. That’s where you’re to get that mass of people. The critical mass of people that will agree and believe we have a culture of Continuous Improvement.

I can’t remember who said it but it was a famous hotelier who said that he’d walk past something, something was slightly wrong and he corrected it and someone asked him, “Why? Why did you do that?” and he said, “because the standard that you walk past is the standard that you accept.” So, as a manager, if you walk past processes that are horribly broken if you just accept that, that’s how things have to be then that’s the standard that you’re accepting for your organisation.

So you need to be relentless and looking at all the processes that the staff do and coming up with ways that they can be done better. It doesn’t mean you have to completely transform your processes each time. It might be a small incremental change. It doesn’t matter but you need most people in the organisation, over 50% of the people in the organisation who look at what they’re doing and think to themselves, is there a better way that I can be doing this? And if you achieve that, then you’re on your way to having a culture of Continuous Improvement in your organisation.