I assume most companies want to improve their performance. The question is, How to achieve that goal? One obstacle to achieving that goal results from the belief that only major improvements will produce significant results. The problem is that large improvements are difficult to find and even more difficult to implement. People tend to resist change. Therefore, the larger the proposed change, the greater the resistance to the change. The worker resistance to the change is often sufficient to cause the initiative to fail.



If you want to create a successful improvement program, you need a different approach. The keys to success include involving the workers in the process and recognizing that small continuous improvements are easier to both find and implement. Before discounting small improvements consider the fact; if you improve your productivity by 28 seconds a day, compounded daily, in just three years you will double your productivity. In other words, small improvements do add up and are easier to implement and often more successful.

However, in the United States continuous improvement programs usually do not work, because they are not implemented properly. In contrast, when they are implemented properly they are often very successful. This report helps explains how to create your company's continuous improvement program that will deliver outstanding results.

The process starts with someone in management addressing the workers and asking for the workers' assistance in improving productivity. Often a manager says something like:

"Times are tough, therefore, in order to remain competitive we need to improve productivity. What suggestions do you have to improve productivity?"

While the above statement may appear to be a neutral statement, it does not come across that way to the workers. The workers' internalize the comment something like:

"You SOB. We are busting our butts, and now you want us to work harder so that you can make more money. Some chance of that!"

Workers with this attitude will make little effort to offer suggestions to improve productivity. The workers have no incentive to help because they believe it will only help the company and force them to work even harder.

However, a slightly different approach could create a totally different reaction. A better approach might be something like:

"While the company needs to improve productivity, we realize that management is a major contributor to the problem. Therefore, we need you to help us identify what management is doing that drives you crazy, gets in the way of you doing your job, or simply wastes your time. In other words, what changes can management make to your job to make it easier and more enjoyable for you?"

This approach will get the workers attention, and a few suggestions will follow. In the beginning, there will still be some reluctance. It will take some time for workers to overcome their skepticism that management will take their suggestions seriously. However, as you let the workers implement their suggestions, trust in the process will increase and more and more ideas will begin to surface.

Why Does This Process Work?

Studies have found that the two things that motivate workers the most are being in on things and being appreciated. Therefore, by asking workers for their opinions and then letting them implement their ideas you are tapping those two motivators. Instead of saying you appreciate their ideas, you are demonstrating your appreciation by letting them implement their ideas. It is also impossible for the worker to be more in on something then implement his or her ideas.

By pushing the workers' two, hot buttons, you will begin to experience a change in your workers' motivation.

Further, in writing the book Strategic Thinking, I learned that frontline workers, not management, generate the majority of the innovative ideas in companies that win awards for innovation. It's not that management is dumb, but the people in the trenches have the best view of the issues that negatively impacting the company's operations in the field. The construction industry must avoid wasting its valuable resource – the minds of its workers.

Keys to a Continuous Improvement Process

  • The changes proposed in a continuous improvement program should be limited to changes the individual or the individual's crew can implement on their own. They should require little, if any, capital to implement.
  • More elaborate changes can occur after the appropriate trust has been established, but those larger changes are not part of a continuous improvement process.
  • It must be clear to everyone that any suggestion will be measured against current productivity. If the suggestion does not improve productivity then, it will not be implemented.
  • Management should not critique the suggestions. Let the workers implement all their ideas, even if management does not believe the suggestion will work. Let the workers find out for themselves. When management decides what idea will be or not be implemented without testing them, management undermines the system and suggestions stop flowing. When a worker discovers his idea does not work, he typically just moves on especially when he is supported for trying.
  • Encourage workers to submit ideas. Support their ideas. Make it clear that it is okay if their suggestions do not work, because the idea of innovation is try new things. The only way to find out what will work is to try them. Since the cost of implementing the ideas are minimal, cost should not be a deterrent to testing the suggested change. The only exception where management will reject an idea is if it creates a safety issue. Management should simply respond by saying something like; "Will will not consider this idea because it is not safe. We will not sacrifice safety in an effort to increase productivity." However, it is critical that management praise the effort of suggesting ideas, not just focusing on the successful ones.

If you would like to learn more about how your company can implement a continuous improvement program, feel free to contact us for assistance.

Ted Garrison; president of Garrison Associates, is a catalyst for change. As a consultant, author and speaker; delivers his Construction 3.0 Strategies that offer breakthrough solutions for the construction industry by focusing on critical issues in leadership, project management, strategic thinking, strategic alliances and marketing. Contact Ted at 800-861-0874 or Ted@TedGarrison.com. Further information can be found at www.TedGarrison.com.