How to take care of an organization’s continuous improvement initiative in a COVID-19 world?

by | Apr 28, 2020

For more than six weeks now, a lot of organizations have shifted focus on teams working in a collocated environment to working remotely. For software and service delivery organizations, one of the significant challenges they will encounter is ensuring their continuous improvement programs will not become a victim of neglect as everyone tries to acclimatize to the change in the working environment.

One of the scariest scenarios is that, due to that neglect, as the world recovers to get back to a form of normalcy is that it will become another shock to the system for employees. The organization could be taking a few steps back, completing work with potential impacts on productivity and quality due to a learning curve to re-assimilate to office working conditions.

It is easy to let continuous improvement slide to the back burner as now there needs to be a change in mindset to get the work done while the distractions from home can pull people away for short bursts of time. The main focus is to get the job done and to stay motivated. Doing some of the tedious work required in a continuous improvement program doesn’t seem all that exciting on the best of times, during the current world situation having young kids eat brussel sprouts over french fries would have better odds.

The remedy to the situation and not cause any slowdowns; it is critical is to keep the metrics up to snuff. If that is lax, then everything else falls; it is the foundation for any continuous improvement initiative as there needs to be measurements to help track progress, especially if it is not automated.

Some of the data will be regularly reviewed by teams and leadership to track the progress of projects, sprints and some results. What data needs attention are the sub metrics and reports to ensure correctness. Like time on tickets or initial root causes on defects. The non-automated data that requires human entry is essential to have done. If there is a gap in time where it was not, by the time things get to some semblance of normal, there could be weeks or months of missing data that will take two to three times as long to get that value back.

Most continuous improvement programs will have regular meetings to review, brainstorm, discuss and come up with solutions. Continuous improvement meetings are generally in a separate room with whiteboards and sticky notes to walk through the process. Now that is not the case. How can a team get similar results remotely? There are a few things that could’ve done.

Continue with the meetings over a video conference, not a telephone conference. One seeing your team members faces will have a positive effect on getting the work done. Two, it will help when discussing issues as facial expressions will tell a lot as for the whiteboard and sticky notes. There are plenty of online tools that will help. Depending on the web conference tool, they may already provide what you need. Now the whiteboard will not be as pretty, especially if you are drawing with a mouse, the point will still be there.

The key is to try your best to keep things flowing and as productive as you can. It will be challenging to get the same results that seen before 2020, which will take time to do everything virtually. The good news is the learning experience over the past few weeks, and near-future will provide a better opportunity for improvements implicitly.

Hear me out on this. Much like learning to Lead from Behind will make for more effective leaders and even better servant leaders, continuing with a Continuous Improvement program virtually will make it better in person. This new way of working will drive out some innovative ways to make improvements and show more natural ways to get the same outcome as before with more efficiency and effectiveness.

In the end, this will make teams stronger through Teaming, Crafting, Providing, Envisioning, Affirming and Leading. This foundation will take everyone to the next level.

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