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Building a Continuous Improvement Culture in Shared Services

Does your Shared Services organization have an embedded culture of personal and collective accountability to deliver increasing value to your customers that gives them a strategic advantage in their markets?

With over 100 representatives from some of the most established Shared Services organizations around the globe, a highly interactive Peeriosity PeercastTM discussed the topic of building a culture of continuous improvement. One of the themes that emerged was that for a Shared Services organization to evolve and move up the proverbial value chain, a common continuous improvement foundation is critical to shaping the organization and fostering a self-sustaining value creation culture. Most importantly, it creates a mindset of personal and collective accountability to deliver results.

Prior to the discussion, a poll that attendees responded to was reviewed to baseline the status of continuous improvement programs of participants.

The  PeercastTM feature company, a large global organization with diverse scope and scale of services, led the discussion by describing the “building block” approach they have used to implement the fundamental skills required within the fabric of the Shared Services organization. The approach is based on the premise that everyone in the organization must be armed with a common set of skills and tools in order to be accountable to deliver value individually and collaboratively. The training includes five building blocks:

Foundation Courses (Attended by everyone in Shared Services)

  1. Introduction to Continuous Improvement (Awareness and expectations)
  2. Yellow Belt (Exposure to methodology and tool-sets, coupled with personal accountability assignment)

Advanced Courses (Attended by subsets to embed advanced skill sets, where required)

  1. Communities of Interest (Leverage)
  2. Green Belt (Build)
  3. Black Belt (Coach and Develop)

With all employees attending the two Foundation courses, the entire Shared Services organization has a structured, consistent language and approach to continuous improvement that allows for flexibility in the application that can leverage the individual’s experience and goals. Every employee gains practical experience by applying what he or she is learning to problems that they have identified through their day-to-day experiences and wish to address and remedy.  As part of the Yellow Belt process, each employee will:

  1. Identify a problem to remedy
  2. Receive coaching as needed or desired
  3. Document and publish the project (one-page electronic format)
  4. Apply the 7-step problem-solving methodology (within 90 days of course completion)
  5. Meet one-on-one with the leader of Shared Services to share their results
  6. Meet with the Business Optimization Director for certification of the methodology used and results
  7. Re-certify annually by submitting and completing additional projects

The group discussion identified some critical components that are common to most successful continuous improvement cultures:

  • Leadership Commitment to Continuous Improvement – It helps (but is not necessarily required) if there is a top-down improvement culture for the entire enterprise actively supported by the CEO. However, the passion and commitment of the Shared Services Leader are imperative.
  • Coaching Support to Work Directly with Individuals and Teams – Resources may be part of Shared Services or a shared corporate resource. However, the preference was these are internal company resources (although external experts may have trained these resources).
  • Communication – What are the projects, who is impacted, the “why behind the what” and the sharing of results and lessons learned.
  • Common Terminology – Everyone needs to speak the same improvement language.
  • Common Methodology – Everyone needs to follow the same problem-solving steps and documentation.
  • Everyone Works on Continuous Improvement – It’s not an interim assignment or “flavor of the month” initiative.  It’s how we work and bring value to our customers. Our improvement culture is a strategic advantage over our competitors.

The value of having a self-sustaining continuous improvement culture is worth the effort as summarized by our feature company:

  • Harvesting – Documenting insights from every employee’s knowledge of the business, processes, and customers’ requirements.
  • Thinking – A systematic, fact-based, and customer-focused approach to improvement.
  • Behavior – Reinforced through training, regular use of improvement tools, and part of management systems.
  • Results – Measured, validated, documented, recognized, and rewarded. Value creation for customers, shareholders, and our employees.

What progress has your organization made in embedding a culture of continuous improvement?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

1 “PeercastsTM” are private, professionally facilitated webcasts that feature leading member company experiences on specific topics as a catalyst for broader discussion.  Access is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from attending or accessing discussion content.  Members can see who is registered to attend in advance, with discussion recordings, supporting polls, and presentation materials online and available whenever convenient for the member.  Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, attendees can easily communicate at any time with other attending peers by selecting them from the list of registered attendees.

Peeriosity members are invited to log in to to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity and the Senior Executive offering included in the membership Click here.

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