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How to Design a World Class CI Programme to Transform Performance

In our previous article, we discussed the 4 key components of a successful CI programme: leadership, roadmap and tools to drive a culture of performance. 

Discover all you need to know about The 4 Key Components of a Successful Continuous Improvement (CI) Programme here.

Today we will explore how to design and deploy a world-class CI programme that transforms performance. This entails deploying the 4 key components through 5 phases of maturity.

The initial step in programme deployment is understanding the need for change; ask yourself questions such as: 

  • What are the compelling needs of the business? 
  • What are the benefits this change will bring? 
  • What’s going to happen if we don’t change? 

Understanding the need for change is a critical step in creating a compelling case to be communicated across the organisation.

What is the 5-phase approach?


There needs to be a journey of maturity, initially engaging and enabling the organisation to believe in a new way of working, building reliability in its people, processes, and equipment. It forms a foundation for building longer-term stability in performance and evolving toward World-Class operations and value generation at all levels of the business.

The 5-phase approach guides an organisation through increasing levels of maturity on its journey to achieve excellence. This is a sequential set of steps tailored to each specific organisation’s needs.

The 5 phases used to transform performance can be described as follows:

  1. Phase 1 – Enabling: This ensures readiness for change, building the guiding team with an aligned purpose for the programme. 
  2. Phase 2 – Vision of Excellence: This is the pilot phase that creates the success model that inspires the organisation to believe in the approach.
  3. Phase 3 – Expanding Excellence: Rollout – transforming the whole organisation, embedding the approach and building on a foundation of sustainable standards and excellence. 
  4. Phase 4 – End-to-End Value Maximisation: Maximising value by maturing the inherent capability across the entire supply chain. 
  5. Phase 5 – Capability Breakthrough: The organisation is maturing, optimising and exploiting all opportunities for performance breakthrough. A habitual CI culture of sustainable, profitable change has been achieved.

Fundamental to the success and credibility of a CI programme is to deliver the desired culture change and performance improvement at a pace. This requires all 4 key components to be tracked continually throughout each phase to ensure that progress has been delivered to the required standard in a timely fashion. This will include the identification and mitigation of any barriers to progress as they emerge. This aspect of the programme is a key responsibility of the leadership team and is provided through formal and informal auditing.


5 Phases of Maturity (1)


Let’s delve deeper into the 5 phases and explore just how to achieve world-class excellence:


Phase 1 – Enabling

Phase 1 is all about enabling an organisation to embrace change ensuring that they are ready to embark upon the journey. 

It begins by creating leadership buy-in, accountability, alignment, and an understanding of CI philosophy. The intent of this phase is for senior leaders to take ownership of the deployment, demonstrate their full commitment, and ensure resources are available. 

The primary driver of the CI programme is to change the collective organisational habits, i.e. the culture. In order to prepare for this, an understanding of the current culture needs to be established. Ensure the appropriate CI-capable resources are available, raise awareness through communication across the organisation, and design the template for the organisation’s new structure.

A specific set of tools are used to create alignment, identify potential roadblocks, and plan the required resources during this phase. Going forward, an agreed toolkit needs to be selected with a common language to prevent confusion for deployment in the subsequent phases. 

As well as enabling the senior leaders to lead the programme, establish desired behaviours, and select the appropriate toolkit, there is a requirement to define the journey to world-class excellence. The roadmap is a deployment plan of how the desired change will be practically achieved. It includes assessment criteria to track the delivery to standard and pace as the maturity progresses throughout the 5 phases. 

Phase 2 – Vision of Excellence

The purpose of phase 2 is to create the vision of excellence; a success model within a small area of the business. This acts as a pilot that can be utilised to inspire the entire organisation to adopt the programme. 

In phase 2, the senior leadership team have developed capabilities to effectively conduct a programme rollout across the entire organisation. In the pilot area, there is a requirement to demonstrate the appropriate behaviours at all levels as proof and a reference to the desired culture. Integral to the success of a world class CI programme is that leaders ensure the appropriate organisational structure, that supporting resources are in place, and they act as the exemplars – driving change from the top – rather than simply delegating. They are visible and directly involved in the CI activity at the ‘shop floor level’ thus demonstrating their commitment to the programme.

As this is the pilot phase, a success model needs to be created to demonstrate the organisational habits of a world-class CI programme. A cultural reference for people that can be rolled out across the entire organisation; exhibiting the key behaviours that change company culture. 

This phase acts as a proof of concept. It entails learning how to apply the CI tools to support behavioural change and create the desired technical standard. This is the first step in creating an army of problem solvers.

The roadmap is the blueprint to execute the activity required to achieve the vision of excellence, drive performance at pace and create belief. The roadmap acts as a link that brings together the 4 key components to suit the needs of the specific organisation. The learnings garnered from the pilot are built into the rollout of the programme in phase 3. To ensure the pilot is meaningful, the roadmap is designed around loss and waste intelligence, therefore, guaranteeing a substantial uplift in performance, achieved through the adoption of the desired behaviours by all staff in the pilot areas.

Phase 3 – Expanding Excellence

This central phase is aimed at transforming the entire organisation by creating the habitual behaviours established in the pilot. Phase 3 sees the embedding of the CI principles and practices across the full organisation, building on a foundation of sustainable standards.

The CI leadership is fully established in all areas and at all levels in the organisation. Leadership coaching and guidance to adopt the required behaviours is conducted in order to create a new culture. This requires the CI organisational structure to be fully established and an effective governance process to be implemented to ensure the right standards and pace are achieved across the organisation.

The principal purpose of CI is to change the organisational culture. In this phase, the focus is placed on creating the first steps towards autonomy, whereby all the efforts focus on continuously eliminating loss and therefore improving performance through an army of problem solvers. The tools from the pilot phase are now used across the entire site. This enables independent problem solving to the desired standard. 

The roadmap is now used to autonomously drive performance and improvement at all levels. Loss and waste intelligence is continuously developed across all areas to support the direction established in the roadmap and learnings are continuously identified in support of future best practices.

Phase 4 – End-to-End Value Maximisation

In this phase, the aim is to mature the inherent capability across the entire organisation to enhance supply chain performance. 

Leadership involvement is now expanded across the entire supply chain. ‘Servant leadership’, whereby leaders exist to support other members of the organisation to maximise value creation, is established. ‘Shop floor excellence’, whereby all CI tools, leadership, and member behaviours combine to create a world-class culture is established in all mature areas of the organisation.

A widespread culture of participation and accountability has evolved. There is now a critical mass of capable CI practitioners to support an effective and autonomous workplace as self-directed teams become the norm.

There is now an expert application of CI tools; CI best practices sharing is fully established and the CI toolkit is expanded to introduce advanced tools that eliminate more challenging waste.

The roadmap focuses on end-to-end value maximisation considering all elements of the entire supply chain. This includes suppliers, customers, partners, and their appropriate development.

Phase 5 – Capability Breakthrough

This phase is highly advanced, to the point where world-class continuous improvement best practices become second nature and there is no need for external guidance. There are now major leaps and bounds in performance, achieving company and supply chain goals. 

Improvements are perpetually being generated and drive business growth. Leaders are CI experts, the people behave habitually in line with the desired culture, the organisation’s toolkit is intelligently applied, and the roadmap involves an ambitious vision. 

Leadership establishes a breakthrough in capability through a fully-integrated deep organisational understanding of CI principles by all. New opportunities are seized rapidly as a matter of habit. 

In creating a world-class organisational culture, the entire workforce is capable of driving performance independently. There has been a transition from facilitation to ownership and accountability at all levels. A fully capable, able, and responsive army of problem solvers has now been established, as well as CI ‘muscle memory. This sees the individuals and teams automatically selecting and applying the most appropriate tool. 

The roadmap creates an enhancement of all aspects of the key components. Whilst it may take some time to get there, it is now possible to fully maximise value for a sustainable, profitable change. The deployment team can now be demobilised as the CI philosophy and the way to do business is one and the same.

We have the empathy, expertise and experience that you need to implement change. Through our 4 key components and our 5-phase approach, you can design and implement a world-class continuous improvement programme. Our consultants are here to help you transform the performance of your organisation, the Henkan way, guiding you on your way to creating a World Class Enterprise.

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