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Adopt a Culture of Continuous Improvement.

Published 28th September 2016 by Thomas Bale

What are the secrets of a truly Outperfoming team?

The best employees will only be motivated by an organisation that's committed to continually getting better. It’s how the very best people powered organisations succeed. You’ll achieve your organisation's goals far more effectively if you can instil a drive to get better all the time. Aim for a “work smarter, not harder” approach – for individuals, teams, managers, and the organisation as a whole.

What can we learn from world leading sport?

Sir Dave Brailsford is the coach who led the British team to victory in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and produced two British winners of the Tour de France within four years. He is also recognised for his theory of marginal gains – the idea that a significant improvement overall can be achieved by a large number of marginal increases. It’s a continuous improvement culture at it’s very best. Listen to his views on getting the very best from people and download his top tips for creating an Outperforming team. 

Tips for embedding a continuous improvement culture

As usual, the change starts at the top: as an employer you should aim to embed the ethos of continuous improvement into how managers support, lead and develop their people. And that process itself should be open to improvement, to ensure everything remains aligned with the organisation's vision and objectives. 

As a leader it’s crucial that you role model the behaviours you want to see

  • Encourage a culture of recognising and taking lessons from mistakes
  • Celebrate initiative, risk taking and learning
  • Encourage involvement from every level of your organisation
  • Share results, learning points and areas for improvement with your people
  • Follow your own development plan for ongoing improvements to how you lead, manage and develop your people

Measuring improvement

You may want to score people along KPIs relating to competencies that are core to your business. These may cover areas such as values, vision, performance, communication, business acumen, innovation and organisational flexibility. It might be risk appetite, lessons learnt from mistakes or other cultural norms you have created in your business.

Establish levels in appraisals, then monitor progress on a weekly, monthly and annual basis. Plot mentoring and formal training onto their personal development plans.

Encourage managers to maintain an open attitude towards individual development plans and regular performance reviews, and allow dedicated time for coaching and mentoring. Reward people for taking risks and ownership of their own development. Give constructive feedback to everyone: flag any unproductive behaviour and don't forget to recognise achievements – something that's forgotten all too often.

What's the Impact?

As well as remaining on the look-out for areas you need to improve – and planning how to go about that – it's also essential to evaluate the impact that your improvements are having on the business. You may wish to assess the activities you choose along the following lines: 

  • Cost benefit to your organisation
  • Value for money
  • How appropriate it is
  • How effective it is
  • What you’d like to do differently next time

The trick is to be consistent in your processes and ensure your people understand them, while also being flexible enough to adjust things to particular people's needs. Not everyone will respond in the same way.  A policy of continuous improvement will ensure that the people who are key to the business now will remain so in five years' time. The business environment is constantly evolving – and so should your people...