Toyota gets over a million ideas a year from their team members on how to improve their processes. Not all of them are good, and fewer are actually implemented, but one of the reasons that Toyota is a leader in their industry is that they have a system to turn good ideas into action. They have an engine behind process improvement.
Much of Toyota’s success is attributed to Kaizen, a Japanese philosophy that means “continuous improvement.” This leading car manufacturer sets the standard of a process-based culture that nearly every organization wants to emulate. Even organizations such as hospitals and postal services have adopted the Toyota Production System to become more efficient.
Why Every Company Needs to Create a Process-Based Culture
Everyone in an organization is supposed to come up with better ways to improve processes. The problem is they are doing it in a lot of different ways. A simple and relatable (though not perfect) example is this:
You walk into a company, and you’ll find some people say “metrics” while others say “KPIs.” Some people use the term “countermeasures” while others say “solutions” and some say “systems.”
This variability in just the terms being used—perhaps because people come from different backgrounds—prevents them from doing optimal work. To standardize the competencies of your people and bring in the needed discipline to ensure your organization stays on track, you must create a process-based culture.
With a process-based culture, you will be able to nurture and sustain each business process and simultaneously align it with the organization’s overall goals. To put it simply, there will be a unison of procedures, processes and vision.
On the other hand, when the process culture in a company is weak, people are more prone to doing fire drills in the workplace or find themselves in a constant state of reacting to problems instead of coming up with ways to make things better or prevent problems from happening in the first place.
How to Create a Process-Based Culture
1. Encourage and support process ownership.
People need to see how they contribute to the bigger picture in order for them to promote change. They must recognize the role they are playing in managing and improving processes. At Toyota, everyone from executives to shop-floor staff is challenged to use their creativity to experiment and learn. Opportunities are created for every team member to share their ideas and turn them into action. It makes every employee feel that their opinion matters.
Another thing you must do is to identify process owners who will take charge of the effective operation of a process as well as process experts who are on-the-ground masters of the tasks required.
2. Have a centralized process repository.
Make this process repository easily accessible and easy to understand. If your people can find and use their processes easily, they will. And if that platform encourages participation in improving procedures, expect your employees to take advantage of the opportunity.
3. Set clear guidelines to govern process actions.
Culture is a collective outcome of the actions and intentions defined by a group to guide its team members to achieve the desired result. Your company should define the principles that guide your employees’ behavior toward processes.
At Toyota, for Kaizen to be more effective, it is guided by three principles:
- Consider the process and result at all times.
- Develop systematic thinking of the whole process.
- Practice a non-judgmental, non-blaming and learning approach.
Setting clear principles and guidelines ensure that there are shared standards and expectations within the company.
4. Foster and support team alignment.
According to Gallup, organizations have increased productivity, retention and agility to respond to external forces when teams are aligned and engaged. Apply process improvement in your company as a whole and encourage team alignment. Instead of operating and making changes per department, your organization should change as one. Changes should be made company-wide to ensure a clear vision and purpose for all of your people.
Remember: Process-Based Culture Is Ultimately about Your People.
To succeed in creating a process-based culture, your people should be provided with the right tools, support and opportunity to contribute to process improvement. Once you show your people how your company thinks about process improvement, they will rise to the occasion, create a culture that makes your company flourish and will be loyal to your company.
In love and respect,