Loreen Sherman, MBA
The direct benefits of your continuous improvements are often easy to predict. You can calculate or estimate cost and time savings even before you implement the changes. There are other significant benefits, however, that you will not realize until your continuous improvement strategy is in place:.
We have all encountered resistance to change. It happens at all levels of an organization and needs to be managed. When you start communicating your continuous improvement strategy to your teams and employees, make sure you focus on the benefits. Some may assume it simply means more work. Treating continuous process improvement as a one-off project for a small group is a sure-fire way for it to be forgotten as soon as the first project is completed.
Instead, make it clear that continuous improvement is a new way of doing business and that it should be applied by everyone and in all aspects of your business. Some great ways to make sure everyone is on board include:. Find ways of bringing it up often, always highlighting the reason for it and potential improvements.
Praise even the smallest improvements, because employees might be hesitant at first to make suggestions. A continuous improvement strategy has no time limit, no end point, no expiration date. Of all the workplace management decisions you can make, continuous improvement is the easiest to begin. Start right now.
Consider what you have to do today and find a way to improve it. Then put in place a way to measure your improvement and check at regular intervals to see your progress. Pick three areas where you want to apply continuous improvement principles. To help you understand just how broad and all-encompassing a continuous improvement strategy is, look for the following examples within your organization:. One last tip for successful creation, implementation and expansion of a workplace continuous improvement strategy is using the right instruments.
Kanbanize is designed with the goal of continually improving how you run your business. Having an accurate picture of the state of your stock, continuous improvement projects and key performance indicators at all times is key to assessing and planning your improvements.
With Kanbanize, you have powerful visual management tools designed with great flexibility. Kanban can be applied to any type of organization, and you can pick and choose from the features and options that work for you. Kanbanize adapts to suit your needs today and also scales your business according to your future needs and growth. Establish streamlined workflow, policy and tracking reports that get everyone on the same page and working to the common goal of constantly, confidently, continuously improving.
Make the decision to turn your workplace into a continuous improvement success story and push your business to be more effective, more streamlined and ultimately, more profitable. Establish short-term actions that will get you to your long-term goals.
Build Your Continuous Improvement Strategy. Try Kanbanize for Free. Thank you so much for writing this.
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It gives us a basis for comparison amongst our peers and pushes us to do better. More and more borders are coming down, and mature products and services from other markets can catch you by surprise. They have access to information at their fingertips. Whereas previously a product, service or marketing plan was designed for longevity, nowadays you need to be ready to react to shifts and trends in the market. Dynamics are Changing: The old walls around products and services have been torn down, and intelligent, flexible companies are reaping the rewards. Mobile apps are turning the taxi industry upside down.
Online banks are offering an alternative to brick-and-mortar banks. Home delivery is changing the way we buy everyday products. The community benefits from having access to clubs and associations funded by charities, and businesses benefit by having a strong community to serve.
Help manage community issues and struggles The support of local businesses can help local communities raise awareness on community struggles and issues. Positive change Businesses can help move key projects forward to initiate positive changes in local areas.
Non-profit initiatives can create changes that have a lasting impact on communities. Local environmental projects Many non-profit initiatives involve helping to improve the local environment, encourage sustainability and create a more appealing local area for everyone. It may not seem like businesses get a big return out of helping others, but being charitable has long-term benefits. Businesses who support philanthropy will build a reputation that no marketing campaign can match. Click To Tweet Employees naturally work for money, but many prefer to work with businesses that have a sense of purpose and that contribute to societal issues think millennials.
This brings us onto corporate and social responsibility. Non-profit initiatives are a huge part of CSR and can really help improve your business credentials. All growing businesses should focus on a charitable role, as competing brands recognize the long-term value to brand building and many are already participating.
Positive PR Firstly, you can shout about all the fantastic work you are doing which creates positive PR for your business. And all businesses could use a dose of positive PR every now and then. A strong reputation locally The more non-profit work you do, the more your business will be recognized locally as a brand with the right values. Taking part in these initiatives gets staff members out and about and right at the heart of the local community, which is a great way of getting your business known.
Promotion If you help support a local charity or non-profit initiative, the chances are your branding will be displayed. First, the PLC has lowered the marginal cost of setting up an in-house learning environment and has enabled chief human resources officers CHROs and chief learning officers CLOs to make more-discerning decisions about the right experiences for the people and teams in their organizations. A Unicon study reports that the number of corporate universities—which provide education in-house, on demand, and, often, on the job—has exploded to more than 4, in the United States and more than twice that number worldwide.
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We believe that in the future, however, even as firms offer learning opportunities to more leaders throughout their organizations, the shifting cost structure resulting from the digitization of learning environments will lead to only a modest increase in resources devoted to leadership development.
The second trend is the decline of standard classroom-based programs for executive development, such as those primarily offered by business schools and universities. Most organizations are demanding pre- and postmeasures of the acquisition and application of relevant skills—such as communicative competence and leadership acumen—that traditional programs were never designed to deliver. The dominant platforms now count millions of enrollees in individual courses and tens of millions of total users.
These trends are linked and form a cohesive pattern: As learning becomes personalized, socialized, and adaptive, and as organizations get more sophisticated at gauging the return on investment in talent development, the industry is moving away from prepackaged one-size-fits-all material and turning instead to the PLC. The PLC enables the fast, low-cost creation of corporate universities and in-house learning programs in the same way that platforms such as Facebook and Instagram facilitate the formation of discussion groups.
Underlying and amplifying these trends is the rapid digitization of content and interaction, which is reshaping the leadership development industry in three important ways. First, it allows the disaggregation or unbundling of the low-cost elements of a program from the high-cost ones. The more high-touch services included in the package, the more a provider can charge.
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Second, digitization makes it easier to deliver value more efficiently. For example, classroom lectures can be videotaped and then viewed online by greater numbers of learners at their convenience. Similarly, discussion groups and forums to deepen understanding of the lecture concepts can be orchestrated online, often via platforms such as Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts, allowing many more people to participate—and with less trouble and expense. Millennials are already comfortable with social media—based interactions, so the value of being physically present on campus may be wearing thin anyway.
And because discrete components of an online education program—individual lectures, case studies, and so forth—can be priced and sold independently, the cost of developing various skills has dropped—particularly technical and analytical skills whose teaching and learning have become sufficiently routinized. Finally, digitization is leading to disintermediation. Traditionally, universities, business schools, and management consultancies have served as intermediaries linking companies and their employees to educators—academics, consultants, and coaches.
Now, however, companies can go online to identify and often curate the highest-quality individual teachers, learning experiences, and modules—not just the highest-quality programs. The PLC has been taking shape for about a decade. Its components include MOOCs massive open online courses and platforms such as Coursera, edX, and 2U for delivering interactive content online; corporate training and development ecosystems from LinkedIn Learning, Skillsoft, Degreed, and Salesforce Trailhead, targeting quick, certifiable mastery of core skills in interactive environments; on-demand, solution-centric approaches to leadership development from the likes of McKinsey Solutions, McKinsey Academy, BCG Enablement, and DigitalBCG; and talent management platforms such as SmashFly, Yello, and Phenom People, which make it possible to connect learning needs and learner outcomes to recruitment, retention, and promotion decisions.
Employees can pursue the skills development program or practice that is right for them, at their own pace, using media that are optimally suited to their particular learning style and work environment. The PLC also enables organizations to track learner behaviors and outcomes and to commission the development and deployment of modules and content on thefly to match the evolving needs of individuals and teams.
1. Start by creating a supportive environment.
It is distributed within and among groups of people who are using it to solve problems together. The PLC enables the organic and planned formation of teams and cohorts of learners who are jointly involved in developing new skills and capabilities. As our interviews revealed, and as recent evidence from LinkedIn Learning has shown, most executives value the opportunity to get professional development on the job, in ways that are directly relevant to their work environment. The PLC enables people to do this, allowing them to learn in a workplace setting and helping ensure that they actually apply the knowledge and skills they pick up.
The rise of the PLC does not imply the demise of credentialing or an end to the signaling value of degrees, diplomas, and certificates. Quite the contrary: It drives a new era of skills- and capabilities-based certification that stands to completely unbundle the professional degree. And seamless, always-on authentication is quickly becoming reality with the emergence of blockchains and distributed ledgers—such as those of Block. Microcredentials are thus proliferating, because the PLC enables secure, trackable, and auditable verification of enrollment and achievement.
The PLC makes it possible for CLOs and CHROs to be precise both about the skills they wish to cultivate and about the education programs, instructors, and learning experiences they want to use. At one end lie functional skills such as financial-statement analysis and big-data analytics that involve cognitive thinking reasoning, calculating and algorithmic practices do this first, this next. The PLC is already adept at helping individuals learn such skills at their own pace, and in ways that match the problems they face on the job.
At the other end of the spectrum lie skills that are difficult to teach, measure, or even articulate; they have significant affective components and are largely nonalgorithmic. These skills include leading, communicating, relating, and energizing groups. Mastery depends on practice and feedback, and the PLC is getting steadily better at matching talented coaches and development experts with the individuals and teams that need such training.
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But this is just the beginning. The PLC is proving to be an effective answer to the skills transfer gap that makes it so difficult to acquire communicative and relational proficiencies in traditional executive education settings. Meaningful, lasting behavioral change is a complex process, requiring timely personalized guidance. The ubiquity of online training material allows CLOs to make choices among components of executive education at levels of granularity that have simply not been possible until now. They can purchase only the experiences that are most valuable to them—usually at a lower cost than they would pay for bundled alternatives—from a plethora of providers, including coaches, consultants, and the anywhere, anytime offerings of the PLC.
And executives are able to acquire experiences that fulfill focused objectives—such as developing new networks—from institutions such as Singularity University and the Kauffman Founders School, which are specifically designed for the purpose. For learners, the PLC is not just an interactive learning cloud but also a distributed microcertification cloud.
Blockchain-trackable microdegrees that are awarded for skill-specific rather than topic-specific coursework allow individuals to signal credibly that is, unfakeably to both their organizations and the market that they are competent in a skill. Finally, the PLC is dramatically reducing the costs of executive development. Traditional programs are expensive. These figures do not include the costs of selecting participants or measuring how well they apply their newly acquired skills and how well those skills coalesce into organizational capabilities. Nor do the figures account for the losses incurred should participants choose to parlay their fresh credentials and social capital into employment elsewhere.
By contrast, the PLC can provide skills training to any individual at any time for a few hundred dollars a year. Furthermore, these cloud services allow organizations to match cost to value; offer client-relation management tools that can include preassessment and tracking of managerial performance; and deliver specific functional skills from high-profile providers on demand via dedicated, high-visibility, high-reliability platforms.
Thus a 10,person organization could give half its employees an intensive, year-round program of skills development via an internally created and maintained cloud-based learning fabric for a fraction of what it currently pays to incumbent providers for equivalent programs. For companies that tap into the PLC, the fixed costs of talent development will become variable costs with measurable benefits. Massively distributed knowledge bases of content and learning techniques will ensure low marginal costs per learner, as learning becomes adaptive. Individual learners will benefit from a larger array of more-targeted offerings than the current ecosystem of degrees and diplomas affords, with the ability to credibly signal skills acquisition and skills transfer in a secure distributed-computing environment.
People will be able to map out personalized learning journeys that heed both the needs of their organizations and their own developmental and career-related needs and interests. And as the PLC reduces the marginal and opportunity costs of learning a key skill and simultaneously makes it easier to demonstrate proficiency, far more people will find it affordable and worthwhile to invest in professional development.
Recently a prominent global financial-services firm considered training proposals from no fewer than 10 top-tier schools in the final round of evaluation—reflecting competition in the market that would not have happened even five years ago. Increased competition will force incumbents to focus on their comparative advantage, and they must be mindful of how this advantage evolves as the PLC gains sophistication. These advances are made possible by the capacity of online learning environments to offer synchronous multiperson sessions and to monitor participants via eye-tracking and gaze-following technologies.
For example, IE Business School, in Madrid, uses technology that tracks facial expressions to measure the engagement of learners and facilitators in its online executive education programs. Business schools will need to significantly rethink and redesign their current offerings to match their particular capabilities for creating teachable and learnable content and for tracking user-specific learning outcomes. They need to establish themselves as competent curators and designers of reusable content and learning experiences in a market in which organizations will need guidance on the best ways of developing and testing for new skills.
Given the high marginal and opportunity costs of on-campus education, business schools should reconfigure their offerings toward blended and customized programs that leverage the classroom only when necessary. Meanwhile, newcomers in leadership development are benefiting significantly from the distributed nature of the PLC—cherry-picking content, modules, and instructors from across the industry to put together the most compelling offerings for their client organizations. For individual learners, acquiring new knowledge and putting it into practice in the workplace entails significant behavioral change—something the skills transfer gap tells us is very hard and costly to accomplish through such purely didactic methods as lectures, quizzes, and exams.
However, PLC applications that measure, track, and shape user behavior are a powerful way to make prescriptions and proscriptions actionable every day. In the past, it was hard for the traditional players in leadership development to provide an ROI on the various individual components of their bundled programs. But the PLC is making it possible to measure skills acquisition and skills transfer at the participant, team, and organizational levels—on a per-program, per-session, per-interaction basis. That will create a new micro-optimization paradigm in leadership education—one that makes learning and doing less distinct.
The payoff will be significant, for if a new concept, model, or method is to make a difference to an organization, it must be used by its executives, not just understood intellectually.