by Paul C. Donehue
Management consultant and Continuous Improvement pioneer Bill Conway often said, “The most important business decision people make every day, is deciding what to work on. It’s all about the work”
This perspective has proved to be true in much of the consulting work our firm has done. In fact, we’ve found that working on the right things comprises at least half of project improvement or continuous improvement!
But once people know what to work on, there are ten critical questions to consider, the answers to which will lead the way toward building a high-performance culture of continuously improving an organization’s work.
These ten questions are:
- What processes should we use to identify the best opportunities for improvement; the work processes that, if improved, can make the biggest impact on the bottom line?
- How will we prioritize the opportunities?
- How can we ensure or increase alignment?
- How will we identify desired outcomes… the way things ‘could or should be’ if everything were right?
- What specific improvement goals shall we set?
- How can we involve the people closest to the work?
- What tools will we use to find fundamental solutions?
- How will we measure progress?
- How will we recognize and communicate progress and achievement?
- What is our follow-up system to assure that the work processes, once fixed, stay fixed?
Once these important questions have been answered, and as implied by the last question on the list, proactive and visible leadership is a must.
This need has clearly been recognized in the marketplace as, according to data shared by Northeastern University, 58% of U.S. companies say their number one strategic priority is closing their current leadership skill gaps. The study also indicated that many more plan to increase their total spending on leadership development initiatives in the next few years- “now treating professional development as an important component of their business strategy.”
Leadership provides the energy for improving an organization’s work and the commitment to sustain the improvements. Today’s leaders must continually work to hone and refine a range of skills if they are to engage and lead a workforce.
These skills include:
- Communication and active listening
- Method of sharing optimism, energy and enthusiasm
- Risk assessment
Finally, it’s important to note that, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be in a C-level role to be considered a leader. Strong leaders exist-and are highly valued-at every level of business to inspire, engage, and influence their colleagues and stakeholders.
About the author
Paul C. Donehue is a Senior Associate at Conway Management Company, a global consulting firm that helps improve the way organizations run. Primary focus areas include continuous improvement and workforce engagement.