The challenges of being an internal continuous improvement manager

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What is an internal continuous improvement manager?

An internal Continuous Improvement Manager is a person inside an organisation who helps to transform or change the business. They usually have an extensive set of skills which are often put to the test during any change/transformation programme. Skills usually include:

  • Communication
  • Motivating people
  • Planning and organisation
  • Influencing and managing resistance to change
  • Managing conflict
  • Personal resilience

Some of the main challenges

Ad Esse has supported many Lean/transformational programmes across a variety of sectors. Through our work we have identified some common challenges that internal improvement managers face, including:

  • High levels of cynicism – often stemming from past mishandled projects and constant change
  • A lack of buy-in at a senior level – if staff don’t see senior leaders backing the programme, they are unlikely to change
  • Resistance – stakeholder analysis is often undertaken at the start but then ignored throughout the programme
  • The business doesn’t take ownership for seeing actions through, resulting in lost momentum
  • Priorities are unclear
  • The business is wedded to targets that don’t drive improvements and desired outcomes
  • Implementation plans stagnate and success isn’t communicated – leading to people going back to old ways of working
  • Staff see change as being the responsibility of the improvement manager/team – leading to a lack of ownership and implementation delays

How to overcome the problems

There are a number of critical success factors that will help Improvement Managers to deliver a successful improvement programme. Visible and active sponsorship at a senior level – buy-in from the top is crucial. Furthermore dedicated/skilled resources and funding means having internal change agents who can be deployed across the business to deliver improvement activity and support owners of action plans and monitor progress. Other success factors include:

  • Have a clear change plan that incorporates all change activity – identify key milestones and hold leaders to account for the regular review of progress
  • Engage and support staff in the change – when planning and delivering improvement workshops ensure wide representation from the business as this will also help to
  • Be clear on priorities, regularly reviewing progress with project sponsors
  • Break down silos
  • Identify and action quick wins – this will help to keep motivation and enthusiasm high
  • Create frequent and open communication – using a variety of methods, don’t assume messages are getting through
  • Share progress and success with the business – including hard numbers and feedback from staff on the difference the change has made

Managing change and delivering continuous improvement is challenging. Improvement Managers need high emotional, physical and mental energy and have a tolerance for uncertainty.