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Apparently it's not enough just to want to improve your business processes - you need to have a need to do it, says Charlie Jacobs, senior project manager for continuous improvement at APL Logistics. Once you have that, it will drive the behavior that you must have in your organization. The benefits will continue to flow from that point.
When the associates in your workforce know the expected behavior they will also realize what they need in order to deliver in the projects assigned to them. "Once you have that program in place, when you have the persistent and consistent drive from management - from the top down - and you're pushing for the behavior you want in your culture, they will continually be raising the bar on the processes and delivering improved services to their customers - and improved savings to the bottom line," Jacobs says.
He says his advice isn't just for customers; the same methodology was applied internally at APL Logistics. "I can say from personal experience it's a big difference from a cultural perspective when you have that top-down approach. It gives those managers reasons why they need to do this because they have to answer to their management."
You want to track savings resulting from these efforts, of course, but there are other benefits as well that flow from a monitoring process. You want something that "adheres the practitioners to the methodologies" that management wants the workforce to follow. Certainly, you want to track the expected and actual results from projects.
"It helps us to replicate successful projects across multiple organizations, to understand how other people's ideas might improve the process. It's good to have a mechanism to make that happen. It's been a big benefit for us."
As a practical matter, how should one train the workforce on continuous improvement? Jacobs says the classroom approach, where one speaks about concepts and principles, is inferior to a hands-on method in which trainees apply what they hear to a "real live" project.
What about a Lean journey? Absolutely necessary, Jacobs says, but without the top-down approach, it isn't likely to succeed.
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