Building a bottom-up continuous improvement culture in Product Development

Building a bottom-up continuous improvement culture in Product Development

“How do you engage people in a global organization in continuously improving the way you bring new products and services to the market. You give them the mandate to make a difference and the tools to succeed”

As a global leader, you constantly challenge yourself and ask “how can we better serve our customers” every day. Our customer within the Construction Equipment industry is no exception. They had decided that a key strategic priority was to raise the level of quality and improve their global product development process. How? By establishing a global template on how to set up requirements, design, develop and commercialize world-class products and services on the market.

Oh, but this we have done before, it doesn’t work!

Recognize it? Well you are not alone and there are good reasons why many come to that conclusion. There is no lack of obstacles to overcome to go from idea to reality, some examples are;

  • How do you ensure accountability?
  • How do you align with other functions, where are the interfaces, what to deliver and when?
  • How do you mitigate a “paper product” and actually make sure the map is being executed in projects?
  • Last but not least, how do you create a learning organization that continuously looks at the map and consciously thinks of how to improve it?

Turning it from idea to reality

One insight that was unanimously agreed globally was that if we were to succeed, we need to go to the source and have a bottom-up approach to build the map and handshake between functions. So here is what we did

  • Define Value Streams
    • Define the streams on how we deliver value to our customers, i.e products and services
    • Let the functions doing the actual work, define their work
    • Make the function lead accountable, by having a clear sign-off (preferably with a physical signature on real paper)
    • Create a map with clear dependencies and handshakes between the functions involved in creating the value
  • Set up a Quality Management and Project Management tool to manage the map
    • Every new project had the “map” built-in, adapted if it was a small, medium or large-sized project. It meant that all project managers and activity owners knew exactly what to do, when, to whom to deliver and why. From requirement phase to commercialization and follow-up.
  • Enable continuous improvement within the Quality Management/Project Management tool
    • By incorporating functionality to register process improvement proposals directly inside the project management tool, we made it easy for each and every activity owner to suggest improvements. Since the tool also entailed review functionality, every activity owner could directly see how the function leads, globally, voted on their proposals. Once voted by all, it could immediately be deployed and a new version of the “map” was released.

The power of empowerment

By opening up and support a bottom-up approach and actively encourage the people on operative level to propose improvement, we could see something truly amazing

  • over 300 plus improvement proposals in less than 2 years
  • More than 80% passed the full review by all global stakeholders and were released as the “new global way of working”
  • 90% felt that they for the first time felt that they could have a real impact on improving the way they were doing things

By empowering the people that do the work, a culture of accountability and continuous improvement was established. Something that cannot be easily copied/pasted.

Curious to find out more on how you can build a continuous improvement culture, do not hesitate to reach out and contact us here

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