Gauteng Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  14 May 2010

LEAN MANAGEMENT: Continuous Improvement (CI) Forum Launched


Recent Gauteng Business News

A Continuous Improvement (CI) Forum has been launched with the objectives to regularly share knowledge, interact and learn from fellow CI practitioners.

The Forum will provide opportunities to discuss different methodologies that contribute to CI and strive to put South African companies firmly on the world map in terms of CI development.

Initial meetings will be organised and facilitated by De Beers and House of Performance, both international organisations involved in Lean management. The Forum will be owned and lead by its members.

“Continuous improvement (CI) is vital within organisations. Without it companies will struggle to adapt to the progressive advances and changes of the corporate world,” said Andrew Richmond, CI specialist at House of Performance.

“Interest in the Forum has been overwhelming. There were over 40 participants in the first meeting which was hosted at De Beers’ Head Office in Johannesburg. Some of the country’s leading CI experts attended. Industries were well represented from manufacturing to banking,’’ said Richmond.

One of the initial topics discussed were constraints and remedies for successfully implementing continuous improvement.

There was consensus that one of the key reasons for failure is that staff and management do not take ownership of CI projects. Using the wrong people to implement CI is problematic. A lack of alignment with corporate focus and not communicating the message internally can result in failure.

Common constraint to CI sustainability include the misinterpretation of goals, a lack of adequate planning and staff not understanding the reasons for the CI focus resulting in no buy-in. What is the benefit to them, they ask.

“In implementing continuous improvement, employees need to understand the big picture, and more importantly, how they can contribute to it,” said Richmond.

“Employees need to understand where they are going, how they will get there and how they will be mentored to continually improve.”

For CI to succeed, management need to lead by example. In some cases they may need to improve employee incentive models.

“It is important to create awareness for change and clarify the reasons for change. Companies should develop a compelling strategy and message, ensuring that the project involves all stakeholders.”

Methodologies and philosophies such as Lean, Six Sigma and Theory of Constraints, which all contribute to CI, must be implemented across the organisation and not in separate departments. CI needs to be driven as a culture to be sustainable – not a project which has a completion date.

The Forum agreed that in South Africa there are diverse cultures and in some ways we work differently to other countries. Therefore, CI methodologies and philosophies must be adapted to the South African environment. Using them in an exact manner as overseas may not work. As a result, there is a great desire to foster a South African CI culture through sharing local CI-related case studies.


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