Do Small and Medium Sized Businesses Need Continuous Improvement?

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Small Medium Sized Businesses Need Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is something that is attracting a lot of attention these days, but what is it, and does it apply to your business? Please keep reading to learn more.

The idea of continuous improvement is that by creating a culture of continuous improvement in your business you will support ongoing growth and encourage your employees to invest in improving themselves and the services that they offer to customers or clients.

Continuous improvement is well known in the world of enterprise, but do small businesses and medium-sized companies need the practice? We believe they do.

Small Medium Sized Businesses Need Continuous Improvement

The Case for Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is not a new idea. Various continuous improvement models have been around for decades.

Six Sigma is perhaps the most mature of the models, but in recent years Kaizen and other processes have also become popular. 

The benefits of adopting a continuous improvement program are well documented, with companies all over the world adopting the practice. Continuous improvement offers the following:

  • Cost savings
  • Reliability improvements
  • Better customer service
  • Better products
  • More efficient workflows
  • Improved staff morale
  • Smoother training processes for staff
  • Better retention
  • Fewer errors throughout the product or service lifecycle

Building a Culture of Continuous Improvement

In some ways, it is easier to implement continuous improvement in a bigger business because the managers are somewhat removed from what goes on each day on the shop floor.

This gives them more freedom to examine the way that things are done and to offer constructive criticism about how things are done.

In a smaller company, the management often does a lot of the day to day work. This makes taking a clinical approach to change and reviewing processes much more difficult.

Even in a medium-sized business, as the staff are closer to each other and the hierarchy is often less clearly defined, bringing about change can be hard.

Small and medium-sized businesses often need continuous improvement the most, since even small changes to a company’s workflow can make a big difference.

However, the way the change is implemented is what matters the most.

Small Medium Sized Businesses Need Continuous Improvement

Create Change From Within

For the best results and the least friction, it is best to implement a culture of continuous improvement from the upper management, and have it trickle down to the other departments and teams.

To do this well, there needs to be an open discussion between staff and management, ensuring that every task and activity is performed in a way that matches the long term goals of the organisation.

Employees should be offered regular training and coaching opportunities to refresh or improve their skills.

This is beneficial in two ways since it makes the employee more useful to the company and also improves their morale, making them more likely to stay loyal.

It pays dividends to talk to each employee, identify their goals, and work with them to build a personalised development plan.

Accreditations and Quality

Formal accreditations such as ISO are useful for providing a business with a starting point for their continuous improvement plans. However, these accreditations can be expensive and need regular audits.

They are worthwhile for a small business that is looking to grow and attract bigger clients that may require suppliers to have such certifications. However, ISO is not the only approach to continuous improvement.

If your business is not yet at the stage where you have the time and money to invest in audits and certifications you can still start building a good culture. The work you do today will make those certifications easier tomorrow.

Choosing Your Approach

As we have already mentioned, there is more than one potential approach to continuous improvement.

Which approach you take does not matter as much as ensuring that the approach you choose is applied consistently and that everyone in the enterprise is on board with the idea of continuous improvement.

Six Sigma was one of the first mainstream methodologies used to improve businesses.

Since its rise to popularity, there have been other approaches developed, such as Lean Six Sigma (which borrows elements from Lean management and from the old Six Sigma methods), and Kaizen.

The key thing that continuous improvement focuses on is helping the company change its modes of operation.

It makes sense for an SME to start adopting continuous improvement methodologies, even if they feel that they are doing OK right now because it is easier to effect change when a company is still small.

Small Medium Sized Businesses Need Continuous Improvement

Consider the traditional western way of thinking about business:

  • Employees think about themselves
  • Departments are out for their own benefit
  • Problems are not addressed until they arise
  • Thinking is short term and results-driven
  • Us vs Them thinking is common
  • People look for ways to lay blame

The Kaizen approach turns this on its head and encourages people to think about the company as a whole.

When people are not scared to be blamed for issues and do not see one department’s fortune as meaning a loss for another department, growth comes much more easily.

Change is good, but implementing change in a huge organisation will always be a challenge, even when the change comes from within and it is clear that the leadership are on board.

No matter what size your business is, having a clear and systematic plan for implementing improvement methodologies will make life much easier for you.

Introducing any change into your business will be a challenge, but continuous improvement methodologies will support growth and will protect your business from the challenges ahead.

If you want to ensure that your business is robust and sustainable for the future then you need to start investing in your management and workflow practices today while the business is moving along smoothly.

You cannot grow if you do not have strong roots.

At High Velocity Business Improvement Coaching, we are able to help you with setting up the processes that are best for your business, or coach you how to better use your existing processes.

We coach your business to understand your problems, the size of the problems and how to solve the true root cause of the problems.

This means you can fix minor issues before they become major problems and deliver a better overall customer experience for your customers.

Please contact us today to book a free consultation or for more information.

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