Information is power, right? Charts, flow diagrams, value stream mapping and the likes all present information to either enlighten a user or confirm a notion that was suspected. But what do all these quality tools really do? They communicate information; so, is communication a linchpin to improving quality? Well, of course it is.
Cultivate a Continuous Improvement Culture
Communication is the foundation to just about everything a company does, so it’s natural to expect that it also affects the success of Continuous Improvement strategies like Toyota’s Production System (TPS) and Total Quality Management. Among other things, open communication makes for stronger teams, more pleasant work environments, and most importantly, an openness to hear what the team has for improvement ideas. However, for communication to work as intended, we must LISTEN.
Encourage Employee Engagement
Listening doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Many supervisors, managers, and directors didn’t get to their positions by being passive. They asserted themselves, put forth their ideas and implemented them- all for the recognition and appreciation of their leadership. None of this sounds like they were listening. However, the best improvement ideas usually come directly from front-line employees doing the actual work, not the leadership. Leadership, for its part, plays the vital role in implementing the ideas brought forth from their teams.
It’s Worth the Effort
To be effective, continuous improvement champions must be great listeners. Did you know that quality improvement started with communication, i.e. listening? We cannot assume that the team knows we want their improvement ideas. If you are truly listening, then your first reaction to input from a team member is not a dismissal or a rebuke. Always stay positive and communicate your appreciation to that individual for taking the time and willingness to step forward and present a process improvement idea. Even if the idea cannot be implemented, what a great culture you will be nourishing; a true continuous improvement culture. Now that’s worth listening to!
Continuous Improvement in Action
Abel Womack has successfully implemented 5S strategies throughout each of their facilities. Here is just one of the 5S projects that has improved the efficiency and effectiveness of several areas within the organization, and more are planned.