Jumpstarting Process Improvement in Your Organization: The Top 10 Essentials (Part 10 of 10) – Accountability and Feedback Loops

The final post in this series of the 10 essentials, saving the best for last – accountability.

Essential #10.  Feedback loops between management and staff.  This is quite different than Management by Walking.  Management by Walking is about relationships, communication, and collaboration.  Feedback loops are 100% about accountability.  It is up to you, the leader, to develop a mechanism whereby the process improvement specialist, front line manager, and staff are jointly responsible for delivering results.  There is a tendency for each of these people to allow the status quo to continue unless they are required to present and defend their results.  The process improvement specialists will tend to analyze data indefinitely.  Managers are hesitant to make changes to what already works.  And front line staff rarely feel empowered to make changes unless they are part of a larger effort.  For these reasons, it is up to the leader to reinforce the need for results through a structured accountability mechanism.  Here three highly-regarded best practices for your consideration.

  1. A balanced scorecard.  Much has been made about the “balanced scorecard.”  Books have been written, awards won, and consultants made rich because the balanced scorecard works.  A balance scorecard is a graphical representation of a handful metrics which, when balanced yield the optimal business result.  This tool can be a tremendously effective reporting mechanism when deploying a process improvement initiative.  It reinforces reliance upon data, ensures a balanced business approach, and forces a concise reporting format.
  2. Monthly project review.  I have seen businesses try to automate, virtual-ize, and minimize monthly reviews.  However, there is no substitute for a face-to-face review of all on-going improvement efforts.  Not only does it provide a platform for accountability, it sends a clear message that process improvement is important, even essential to the business.  It also provides the appropriate venue to evaluate results, lobby for resources, escalate problems, and garner support for the next steps.
  3. Celebrate success.  It is somewhat cliché to include “celebrate success” as a feedback mechanism.  It is often talked about, routinely and publicly committed to, but rarely accomplished.  Recognizing people for their ideas and hard work is critical to sustainability.  Not necessarily because people like being recognized, though they do.  Not necessarily because it makes people feel good, though it does.  But because it creates a culture of continuous improvement.  It says to everyone in the organization, “This person challenged the status quo, had the courage to offer new ideas, and make a real change.”  This declaration empowers everyone else to do the same.

Creating ways to encourage positive change and discourage inactivity is vitally important to the process improvement cycle.  Without some level accountability, we all, at best, refuse to change and at worst, spiral toward lower quality and higher costs.  Accountability does not have to be a bad word.  In most cases, it is an opportunity for those doing great work to demonstrate success, solicit resources, and plan next steps.  It is the single most important ingredient in the process improvement recipe.



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