Repairing a Broken Continuous Improvement Program

Six Sigma – iSixSigma Forums General Forums Implementation Repairing a Broken Continuous Improvement Program

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
  • Author
  • #55937


    Greetings all,

    I work for a surgical device manufacturer who just really starting to embrace lean six sigma methodology in the last few years. Part of the initial roll out included a continuous improvement that fed off of associate submissions. Unfortunately it was not well managed, most ideas never saw the light of day, and the feedback loop was little to nonexistent. Over the last year we have started beefing up our LSS program with a dedicated Operational Excellence division and are working to shift workplace culture to one that is more mindful of continuous improvement and lean. My current task is revive the idea submission program.

    I’m hoping to hear from those of you involved in current programs that are running successfully. Our biggest challenge is getting people to forget the broken system of the past and buy-in to a fresh start. Most people currently possess a “why bother” attitude to generating idea submissions.

    Part of my plan is to utilize a more inclusive feedback loop to all associates to prevent the “lost and forgotten” feeling once a submission is made. We also utilize tiger teams during larger improvement projects and I want to take that essence into our general CIP program and have front line associated more involved in the design and implementation of improvements where applicable.

    I am limited to what I can do to incentivize the program (department heads aren’t buying in to typical reward based program) so I am particular interested in what you all have done to stir interest in programs and sustain the momentum.

    Thank you in advance.


    Mike Chambers

    Hello @myoder2004,

    The most successful approach we have seen is to truly empower the workforce. Teach (and encourage) them to have “2 minute” kaizens to remove hassle and improve their workplace. Insist on written standard work practices and team-wide communications to let others know what they are doing but otherwise let the operators and mechanics run the show. With a supporting recognition system, we have successfully used this approach in a number of plants in a number of industries.

    As for a formal suggestion system, the best I have seen is at Toyota. 40 Years, 20 Million Ideas: The Toyota Suggestion System by Yuzo Yasuda can be pricey and difficult to find but is excellent.

    Hope that helps …

    Best regards,



    Charles Schaefer

    Hello Matt,

    Your statement that “department heads aren’t buying in to typical reward based program” makes me wonder whether you have full management support for the ideas program.

    The best approach I’ve seen is described in the book “Ideas are Free” by Dr. Alan Robinson. The bets incentive programs don’t rely on money or tangible items. Most workers simply want a “thank you” and to see their ideas implemented. Go light on the formality but hold middle managers accountable for managing their local ideas systems (note the intentional use of the word system, not “program”).

    Best Regards,



    James F Giguere

    I’ve often struggled with the reason for lack of interest by managers. Assuming they are just like your line workers, “good people trying to do a good job”, I have come to believe the reasons are more related to not defining clear processes with clear owners and with defined metrics and goals that are aligned with those of the organization.

    OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) seems to be that kind of tool as there are usually managers already assign to each component in the formula. Once upper management ties bonuses and raises to increasingly aggressive yearly improvement targets, like Walmart does with their suppliers, those managers responsible for Availability or Planning will actively be looking for good ideas.

    All that remains then is to evaluate employee ideas to show cost, which metrics will improve and by how much, and then funnel the idea to the appropriate process owners. This will also prevent spending resources on projects that are not aligned with the organizations priorities… Sounds easy :)



    Deming argued against individual rewards and I’ve found that to be sound advice, in most cases. It can cause resentment and competition while we really want all of us to work together. Maybe that’s why your department heads aren’t buying in to a rewards based system, and that’s probably a good thing. It’s better to share rewards while giving credit. For instance, “Mary submitted this great idea so we’re giving everyone in her department a gift certificate.” Think about that.

    I hope you never had an anonymous suggestion box where ideas are swallowed by the black hole. Ideas should be encouraged. Every one should be considered and given a thoughtful response, no matter how off-the-wall they might sound.

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.