The Shingo Prize (www.shingoprize.com) is a non-profit organization committed to the education, assessment, and recognition of organizations achieving operational excellence. The process of applying for and receiving recognition from the prize is extensive and recently, we helped an organization undertake the challenge. The organization has been on the continuous improvement journey for a few years now, and while they have achieved some great results, they have also struggled to engage the entire workforce in the change process and create a culture of daily continuous improvement. One of the issues has been the leadership team’s lack of commitment to consistently provide the vision, resources, and urgency necessary to drive rapid process improvement.
When challenging for the prize however, the leadership team stepped up their game and spared no expense in preparing the facility and staff for the examination. They created a well thought out and orchestrated tour, aligned the shop floor and support groups with a narrative to share with the examiners, ensured everyone in the facility knew their role in achieving a successful outcome, and conducted a series of dry runs to get the team comfortable with what to expect during the site visit. As part of the preparation, the organization also implemented a significant number of improvements to key processes, daily huddles, and visual controls.
After witnessing the preparation that went into challenging for the prize, I could not help but wonder where the organization would be if they focused a similar amount of resource and energy around driving daily improvements the last three years. Rather than merely ramp up for the examination, if the leadership team had created a similar level of urgency, alignment and preparation in daily activities, the organization would not only have achieved a higher level of cultural transformation, but business results would be significantly better as well.
In the end, the lesson to be learned is; don’t wait for a special event to create an aligned vision for your organization and pursue improvements with intensity and commitment. Don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today to create a culture of change and drive results. World class organizations understand that continuous improvement is a daily activity embedded into the standard work of associates and managers. They also understand that employees are hungry to buy into an “impossible” vision for the future, so there is no time like the present to start making the future a reality.