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Getting Lean and Mean Part II: Continuous Improvement

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Business Advice

Ensuring your employees share the same dedicated passion as you is one of the greatest challenges a business owner faces. While it’s great to be ambitious and determined to succeed, if your employees aren’t on your side with the same goal in mind, then the journey to success is not going to be an easy one. After all, you’re only as good as the guys representing you.  

Here’s where the notion of “continuous improvement “comes into play. It involves understanding that in the business world, you can always find ways to improve your company’s processes and systems. And, on that same note, the process of evaluating your changes and improvements never really ends. Basically, the job is never done when it comes down to organizing your business.

In such a competitive and evolving industry, change is absolutely necessary to stay ahead! It’s critical to get everyone on board and actively supporting this fact. If you’re not improving your business, then you’re competitors will catch up and soon enough leave you behind. That is the speed of the landscaping business; hence, the need to regularly engage in creative brainstorming with your crew.  

Here’s a way to start: many are familiar with the standard ‘continuous improvement’ model – it consists of simple, logical, “plan and act” steps and is used as a “strategy” in multiple scenarios.

If not familiar, the model encourages people (in this case owners and their employees) to regularly review their current processes, assess what works and what needs to change, apply the changes and then continue to improve upon them. It’s a strategic approach and, when applied effectively to a business as a ‘model for growth,’ it will increase productivity and efficiency. This unending cycle – plan, do, check, act and repeat – provides the necessary steps for employers to put their ‘continuous improvement’ business model into effect.

Before we break down the steps in further detail, let’s look at how the model can be used to “empower” your employees and get them thinking like owners, too. In essence, once your crew understands that when the company benefits, they benefit, they will have more incentive to contribute improvement ideas and more incentive to act in accordance to those ideas.

With your employees thinking like owners, less money is lost to waste and inefficiency and more is left over for profit and wages. Improvement equals more opportunities for advancement. Therefore, by operating under a continuous improvement philosophy, your employees will have:

  • A feeling of empowerment and invested interest in your company – once your employees are given the opportunity to voice their opinion and actively engage in the creation of company policies, they’ll feel more like invested owners.
  • A new energy and zest for work – generating new ideas and moving those ideas beyond paper gets people excited for the opportunities to come.
  • Boosted morale – operating under the continuous improvement model creates a positive “company culture” that encourages workers to strive for more and achieve more.

Here’s how to apply the model to your business:

(1) Plan: get your employees thinking about the processes they go through every day on the job. Have them write these processes down and the potential problems they encounter. Jotting down their processes will give both parties (you and your workers) a better picture of what is actually going on when decisions are made and tasks are carried out.

Next, consider which processes are time-consuming and, therefore, hampering your company’s efficiency. Then, evaluate your resources. For instance, is your equipment contributing to the delay in time? Are you using your equipment to its full potential? Could the equipment already owned be used for other tasks as well? Consider all the possible ways you and your employees could save time on the job.

In the same sense, consider which processes are unnecessary and eliminate them.

Lastly, develop ideas to prevent problems from happening again.

(2) Do: implement the idea and execute the plan. A strong action plan will list the steps that need to be taken in order to complete the task in a new and efficient manner.

(3) Check: after a new plan is set in motion, check back with your employees and evaluate whether the improvement or change was successful.

(4) Act: use the new idea to motivate and inform your employees. Have them discuss and share their ideas with their coworkers and reward those who consistently participate.

Landscape Management Network is a collection of systems, tools, and training to help great contractors build and manage great businesses. Visit the LMN website.

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