4 Proofs That Continuous Improvement Drives Collaboration
We operate in a complex universe; the reality of the workplace today is that it is essential to juggle between sharp strategic objectives, a lack of staff, the cutting edge of technology, experts in very specific fields, a context of pandemic and remote work, etc.
The current buzzword ? Collaboration.
In 2022, encouraging employees to collaborate is essential. But it doesn’t stop there. The work environment must be conducive to collaboration and managers must be able to turn to concrete initiatives to encourage it, practicing collaborative leadership.
The definition of the 4Cs:
- Communication: We speak of communication when we refer to the exchanges that facilitate the completion of a task.
- Coordination: Based on assigning the right resources to carry out a task, organizing the agenda, preparing the action plan, etc.
- Cooperation : Collaboration is when a common goal is shared and/or tasks are fragmented to accomplish the final work. Example: milk is taken from several dairy farms and is sold to the general public without distinction.
- Collaboration : Collaboration implies the interdependence of several actors to carry out a task. The overall goal could NOT be achieved alone.
At Bambou Space, we want to show you that continuous improvement and collaboration go hand in hand.
Proof #1: Continuous improvement is based on the principle of “giving a voice” to employees
Clear and thoughtful communication is a key element of collaboration. It is essential that each stakeholder working on a given objective is able to communicate their vision, needs, challenges, anticipated obstacles, etc. How to get there? Communication strategies are different; some like to debate their opinion while others sweat at the idea of speaking publicly. Some prefer oral discussions while others prefer to put their ideas in writing. It is therefore essential to have a strategy of communication so it is not only the employees who speak the loudest that express their opinions.
Continuous improvement is based on the principle that the employee is the expert of their process; we, therefore, seek to give them a voice in order to let them suggest improvements. There are a multitude of approaches and collaboration tools, therefore diversifying communication strategies. Whether it is through a Gemba walk, during a kaizen workshop, via an intranet platform or an adapted solution such as Bottom Up, Continuous improvement allows everyone to communicate their ideas and express themselves, which is a key element of collaboration.
Proof #2: Continuous improvement solutions propose to think differently about the organization of work
Since we say that collaboration implies the interdependence of several actors to carry out a task; how do you make sure you get input from everyone or that you are not creating bottlenecks along the value chain? How can we make sure that we understand what demobilizes your employees?
Continuous improvement is full of different tools that promote fluidity between the different actors in order to carry out a task:
- Identification of the bottleneck: By using process analysis, it is possible to put our finger on the bottlenecks and thus establish a plan to eliminate them. This way, we make sure to eliminate irritants, waiting times, delays, etc. – and to promote the creation of a work environment conducive to collaboration.
- Creating high-performance work cells: Continuous improvement encourages the creation of collaborative workspaces, which support collaborative problem solving and help achieve the potential goals listed in the previous example.
- Visual signals (Kanban) : These signals are used to indicate whether we have capacity or not, in addition to being a signal of need for replenishment. Thus, this avoids delays, frustrations, misunderstandings and loss of various opportunities – promoting a working climate and environment conducive to collaboration.
Proof #3: The continuous improvement approach encourages debates between the stakeholders of a process in order to reach a consensus
First, what is consensus? A consensus is an agreement between people, without the need for a formal vote, which avoids resistance within the group. For example, it may happen that we do not agree on the procedure to follow (or a decision to make, etc.) during a work session. With the help of structuring tools, we can arrive at an informed decision, which leads to consensus. Thus, everyone supports the decision by leaving said meeting.
In a workplace, it is essential to find tools or solutions to reach a consensus when a discussion seems to create division.
Continuous improvement offers various tools, including:
- “Impact/effort” decision matrix : Matrix two by two, in x the efforts, in y the impact. For all received ideas, the amount of effort required to accomplish the idea is established. Then, the magnitude of the impact is anticipated. The objective is therefore to prioritize what requires little effort and will have a big impact. Thus, the most urgent option to deploy becomes more obvious to everyone and allows consensus to be reached objectively.
- Root Cause Analysis : The main purpose of this tool is to discover the real cause of a problem. This allows us to make the decision that goes straight to the point, in addition to reaching a consensus. For example, the “5 Why method” makes it possible to put on paper and visually see the causes of a problem, which makes it easier to reach consensus.
Proof #4: The continuous improvement approach encourages long-term vision
An important quality of a collaborator is to be able to visualize the expected result of the work issued from collaboration. Unengaged employees, especially those who do not feel that their contribution makes a difference, may tend to stick to the bare minimum in terms of their contribution, which becomes a challenge for collaboration.
Continuous improvement brings a focus on the long-term vision, which promotes collaboration. How? By clarifying or defining the values and vision of your organization, you obtain your guideline, the beacon in the storm. It becomes possible to imbue this “Why” into everything you do, not only making your employees feel like they are making a difference, but also allowing you to make decisions that are aligned with the image of your organization, rather than demobilizing the troops.
- Hoshin Kanri: Tool to synthesize this vision. It is a method that allows the organization to concentrate all its efforts and manpower in the rapid achievement of an objective, which facilitates communication, and therefore collaboration.
This promotes your employee’s willingness to collaborate, in addition to mobilizing them.
Bambou Space wishes to have convinced you that a continuous improvement approach intrinsically promotes collaboration, in addition to achieving the returns targeted by the company and creating an organizational culture that promotes employee mobilization.