Continuous Improvement Tools
Having the right continuous improvement tools and strategies in place is essential to the long-term success of any business. These tools can be anything that helps ensure the quality improvement process can move forward successfully. Over the next few blogs, we’ll be delving deep into some of the more well-known continuous improvement tools and how leaders can best use them to implement significant change in the workplace.
1) The Kanban Method – Visualise and Harness
The Kanban Method follows a set of principles and practices for managing and improving the flow of work. It is a non-disruptive method that promotes gradual improvements to an organisation’s processes and outcomes. If you follow these principles and practices, you will improve flow, reduce cycle time and increase value to your customer, with greater predictability – all elements which are crucial to any business today.
Kanban helps users to harness the power of visual information by using notes on a whiteboard to create an overall “picture” of your work under general headings of “To Do”, “DOING”, “DONE” and “BACKLOG”. Seeing how your work flows within your team’s process lets you not only communicate status but also gives a contextual understanding of the work being completed.
There are four foundational principles in Kanban:
1) Visualise the flow of work
By visually laying out the work, either on a physical board or an electronic Kanban Board, your team can then process steps that are currently used to deliver the work or services. Depending on the complexity of your process and type of work, your Kanban board can be very simple to very elaborate. Once you visualise your process, you can then visualise the current work that you and your team are doing in the form of different colour-coded notes for separate staff members or tasks.
2) Limit work in process
By limiting the number of tasks being completed at any one time, you encourage your team to complete work at hand first before taking up new work. By creating a focus on getting work in progress completed and marked done, the system is geared towards a “Just in Time (JIT)” approach, reducing various forms of Waste.
3) Focus on flow
A Kanban board’s core purpose is to manage and improve your team’s workflow. By setting up your Kanban board with 3 basic stages to begin with (To Do, Doing and Done) you will observe how quickly or stagnantly your team’s workflow of tasks move from one section of the board to the next. The power of the Kansan system lies in its ability to highlight bottlenecks and pinpoint areas for improvement.
4) Continuously improve
Remember, one of the primary goals of your Kanban board is to serve as an informational radiator, so make sure it is in place that is visible and used by all team members who are working on it. The Kansan will work as another member of your team, constantly evolving and developing around your team and the work they complete. In other words, it is a continuous improvement board. By editing and updating your board when necessary to suit the team or task, you are allowing the process to consistently improve to better support and assist your team to complete their individual and organisational goals.
Next blog we will look closer at another imperative continuous improvement tool, 5 Whys.