Ten Tips for Senior Management Before Starting Process Improvement

When an organization begins the process of starting the use of improvement teams to make process or quality improvement, leadership is often unclear as to what their role should be. Should the leadership micro-manage the teams (and risk being viewed as an obstacle)? Or should they be more hands off (with the risk of being viewed as indifferent)?

The right role for leadership is a fine balance of being involved and supportive while remaining distant in order to maintain perspective. The leadership role in Process and Quality Improvement is critical for success of process.

Improvement teams want to know if their work is supported and valued by their leaders. It is best to let them know your support and attitude without the team having to guess that they are valued.

The following ten tips for leadership are things that we have observed that help have a successful implementation of improvement initiatives in organizations:

Tip #1: Understand the lingo

Get yourself trained in the improvement process the teams are using so you can speak their language and understand the process they are using. This shows support for the process. Use the tools and techniques of the improvement process at meetings to show that they can be used by individuals and teams.

Tip #2: Visibly demonstrate your support

Show your support for Process and Quality Improvement whenever you have the opportunity –speak at any venue you can in the organization and deliver a consistent message of why improvement teams are important and valued. One strong support message is to lead a team or be a team member.

Tip #3: Celebrate each team’s achievements

Teams that get recognized for their work feel valued and that will encourage more projects and achievements. Recognition is also a subtle means of getting others interested that may be on the sidelines watching. Remember behavior follows reward and recognition is a reward.

Tip #4: Make sure the team is focused on what matters to the business

Ensure that teams that are started are in alignment with the organization’s strategic initiatives. This keeps the teams focused on what is important to the organization.

Tip #5: Stay informed of progress

Review how things are going on a regular basis by asking for briefings on the progress of the various teams and ask where you can help.


Tip #6: Understand the resource requirements

Make sure that you have a clear understanding of the level of support each improvement initiative requires such as staffing, monetary resources, time commitment and priority to the overall organization.

Tip #7: Get your teams to communicate

Encourage your teams to share their work with others so that the organization knows what important initiatives are being addressed. Have the teams put up post size storyboards of what they have done. This will help develop support, learning, and interest in improvement issues.

Tip #8: Be a coach rather than a critic

Help the teams overcome obstacles. Collaborate with teams.

#9: Help your team focus their efforts on the "right" problems

People are more enthusiastic and engaged when they are solving problems that make their life and department run more smoothly and efficiently and when they have passion for the issue.

Tip #10: Have patience as skills grow

Understand that teams grow stronger and more effective with each initiative they undertake. They will learn how to perform quality tasks more effectively with time and experience.

The right role for leadership in the improvement process is a fine balance of being involved and supportive but not over involved where leadership becomes a major obstacle. The above ten tips for leadership will help leaders understand what they need to do to make the teaming process smooth, efficient, and effective for their organization.