Organizations implement management systems for many different reasons; to improve performance, open lines of communication, and to develop a team of problem-solvers (to name a few). Adopting a management system requires a different way of leading. It means managing by process rather than managing by objectives. Often organizations realize some quick gains when they begin using a management system, but without intentionality these gains can taper off leaving people frustrated, not knowing what to do next.
Here are some tips for sustaining a management system.
Define and Practice Ideal Leader Behaviors
Focusing on developing principle-based leadership behaviors is essential for sustaining a management system and a culture of continuous improvement. The leaders set the tone for the organization and lead the culture by example. Leading in a continuous improvement environment is about developing and supporting others to solve problems and making the connection clear between their work and the work of the system. Leading in a new way takes willingness to change, humility, curiosity, perseverance, and self-discipline.
Once you have defined ideal leadership behaviors you need to be diligent about practicing them. For example, if you have decided to practice asking better questions when you are in the gemba you might want to ask a trusted colleague to observe you and provide feedback on what they saw.
Sustaining a management system requires consistency. Set a standard and follow the standard regularly. Sometimes teams start daily huddles and don’t see the value right away, so they abandon the huddle all together or keep making changes to the way they run it. This constant change makes it hard to see benefits and gaps in the process. We recommend setting a standard for how you will run each element of the management system and following that for a set amount of time before making any changes.
When you are implementing and spreading a management system across an organization it is important to be patient. A management system cannot be built overnight (Rome wasn’t built in a day). There are a lot of elements to put in place and you will likely face some skepticism from some of your team members. The key is to be patient and know that the results will be worth the long journey.
Patience can be demonstrated through leader behaviors. For example, a patient leader would keep the focus on how adding these elements can help make things better for the staff and the organization as a whole, especially while talking with those who are more resistant to the change.
Connect the Work to Organization Goals
Making sure you utilize the elements of the management system to show how work aligns with the organization’s goals helps sustain the work because it shows its impact. When it is visual that the management system components are impacting the goals, or True North, in a positive way it will be easier to prove that a management system is a better way to lead the organization.
Implementing a management system throughout an organization will take time and dedication. It will take as much dedication to sustain it overtime.
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