By Dr. Evans Baiya
Are you looking for the next big thing? Searching for an idea that will attract new customers, improve your offerings, or simply give you a leg up on your competition? The good news is you probably have most of what you need already at your fingertips: Your employees will be the defining factor to your success. And creating new value can be easier than you think if you get the right tools and processes in place.
You may have the inspiration or the original idea, but it is your employees who will execute that vision—and maybe even improve upon it—if you give them the right tools. It is impossible for a leader to single-handedly transform a company, thus the adage: “Leadership is the art of getting things done through people.” Large-scale change requires the work of a team.
Not only does it require the team to develop, execute, and scale the new work, but it truly takes a team for the first step in any new value creation: ideation. Ideas are the single most effective tool for organizational transformation. Who better to generate ideas than the people who have their finger on the pulse? Your employees have the best vantage point for evolving customer needs, thoughtful service enhancements, and process improvements that could save you thousands. Let your team be your innovation engine, and they will drive the evolution and growth of your company.
If you set the stage for a company culture that supports constant improvement, you will by default create a team that will transform your company. Here are six ways to do it:
Make innovation commonplace
Your team should be consistently thinking of ways to innovate and improve every aspect of your company—from processes to services, and customer interactions to products. If innovation feels intimidating or is considered a major initiative that only few can accomplish, you are leaving major opportunity on the table. Opportunities for innovation and improvement are everywhere and can apply to every department. Innovation doesn’t have to be disruptive; it can also be incremental. Incremental innovations are the improvements we make in our everyday lives that have significant impact.
Take failure off the table
Leaders often make the mistake of overemphasizing the cost of failure and underestimating the priceless value of learning. If you want to create a team that is continuously improving you must de-emphasize failure and overemphasize the importance of experimentation. Create a culture where no one is afraid of trying because the results of failure are celebrated as an opportunity to learn how not to do it next time. Employees should instead be afraid of not trying because advancement is an expectation in every role. You can even go as far as to write it into your performance reviews.
Build team chemistry
By definition, chemistry is the interaction of different elements in different ways. Similarly, team chemistry is the interactivity between members’ differing thoughts, differing personalities, and differing approaches to problem solving. Notice where your employees play well together, feed off each other, and lead each other to creative solutions, and generate more of those opportunities. You cannot create a culture of continual improvement without team chemistry.
The more you practice working together around different problems and solutions, the better the chemistry will be. Find ways to create opportunities for collaboration for everyone—identifying both opportunities on singular teams and working across departments to solve even bigger issues.
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People love to contribute to solving problems, so charge every team member with problem identification and continual improvement. Build it into your weekly team meetings and address it in your quarterly reviews. Innovation is not limited to specific people or certain teams. We all conceive, view, and understand problems differently. We also envision and develop solutions differently. These differences in perspective create strength in a company. Your employees will see something that you may have missed, based on their personal experience.
To be a team that can transform a company, every person must be a part of the challenge. Give everyone a role in the process of identifying problems and opportunities, and helping to create solutions.
Create a shared goal
Give all of your employees some skin in the game. People will work harder when they know they are part of building something greater than they could accomplish on their own. Most importantly, people contribute when their participation is acknowledged and valued. Establish not only company-wide goals, but also smaller shared team goals that require everyone to collaborate. If your employees understand how their participation either helps or hinders the goal, they will feel like they are an important part of the solution.
Not only that, but make sure you give everyone permission to participate, including your administrative support team. They all have something valuable to bring to the process, so don’t leave out anyone in the company.
Establish a system
In order to make a culture of continuous improvement work, there must be a system in place to support and sustain it. You’ll need a means of generating ideas, options for idea storage, a process for developing and implementing ideas, and a way to measure the success of your initiatives.
When your people are actively looking for solutions, you will no doubt have more ideas than you can deploy. Some ideas may need to be revisited and some may need additional development at a later date. You may even have ideas that are not scalable by your organization, but can still be developed and sold to other companies or industries. You need a way of cataloging these ideas so they aren’t lost. You also need a process for developing and scaling the ideas that are selected, so that innovation doesn’t stall.
Putting these six factors in place will set the stage for a culture of constant improvement, innovative solutions, and organizational transformation.
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