Sign Builder Illustrated July 2018

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Continuous Improvement


can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase “we don’t change very fast around here” from sign business owners. Usually I take it as a brush-off tactic because it feels like they don’t want to talk about the nasty little six-letter word called change. From what I see looking in with outside eyes, it appears what they really mean to say is “we don’t change at all around here!” This is a big problem with the “old school” owners in our industry and why there is such a disparity between the haves and the have-nots. The progressive companies are laughing all the way to the bank, while the “we don’t change very fast around here” companies are treading water at best. Granted you don’t necessarily have to change anything if it’s not broken, but thinking you are not affected by the world evolving around you or that you are immune to disease in your own company is a false expectation. Furthermore I’ll bet you could make some changes right now that would great16

Sign Builder Illustrated

July 2018

ly benefit the company, but you don’t know what to change or how to change. At this point, lets shift from the term “change” to its friendlier counterpart called “Continuous Improvement,” a vital tool that ensures long-term success. The Institute of Quality Assurance defines Continuous Improvement (CI) as a gradual, never-ending change that is focused on “increasing the effectiveness and/or efficiency of an organization to fulfill its policy and objectives”—or put simply, “getting better all the time.” When managing a CI company, you are on a constant lookout to improve the things that aren’t working while creating a better environment that makes the customer and employee experience more enjoyable with higher ROIs to stakeholders. A Continuous Improvement company is all about living and breathing improvement in your day-to-day operations and by everyone in the organization as part of the total effort from now until the end. Without a CI mentality, owners start to do “complacent thinking,” assuming things are okay because that’s the way you

have always done it; if it’s not broken it doesn’t need fixing. Doing this sets yourself up for a big surprise. Recent history shows no organization is bulletproof. Successful CI organizations share five things in common. 1. Goal setting. Goals should be set based on the short- and long-term objectives of the organization’s strategic plan with short-term being three to twelve months and long-term two to three years. The two plans work together and are designed as a single strategy that is broken down into monthly and quarterly objectives. This keeps things in focus so teams can be accountable because they can relate better to visible “must outcomes” targets in “now term” action. When written down, tracked, and managed, the chances of success are increased exponentially. Studies by Edwin A. Locke and his colleagues have shown that more specific and ambitious goals lead to more performance improvement—as long as the person accepts the goal, has the ability to attain it, and does not have conflicting goals. 2. Systems. Dependable, well-managed systems and procedures make sure “good work” is performed the same way every time, resulting in a predictable level of quality within predetermined standards. Some desirable traits of systemization are: improved employee morale, management stress reduction, minimized rework and overtime, increased profitability, and improved receivables and cash flow. 3. Monitoring. The main goal of monitoring things like time, materials, quality, and any other activity is to better understand what progress is being made towards a particular objective. The observations provide a basis for problem solving or, if things are going well, the ability to exploit the positive thing you are doing to get even more of a desired result. Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

Photo: Shutterstock/infocus.

Change is not a four-letter word.