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Creating 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?  For a Shared Services organization to evolve and move up the value chain, a continuous process improvement (CPI) 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. 

Company Experience

One attribute of many successful Shared Services operations is a well-established continuous improvement program that is ingrained into the culture of the operation. A recent Peeriosity PeercastTM featured a global company with over $10B in annual revenue discussing their approach to making “continuous improvement the way to work every day”.

Prior to their efforts to fully imbed continuous improvement into the Shared Services culture, their status quo included:

  • A limited number of continuous improvement tools were available
  • There was no formal continuous improvement recommendation process
  • Improvement efforts were isolated, with little visibility or awareness
  • Improvements were often not sustainable
  • There was no clear tracking of the impact or benefits of continuous improvement projects

After discussing in detail the steps to complete their implementation, the following benefits and results were discussed:

  • They were successful in creating a continuous improvement mindset within Shared Services, including a standard language towards processes improvement opportunities, and where continuous improvement is not a project but rather recognized as being inherent to how the business runs.
  • They successfully created a defined pipeline for improvement ideas, with a clear structure for how ideas are proposed and prioritized.
  • These efforts were carefully integrated with automation efforts, where the improvement mindset can both facilitate and drive automation, with a strong structure in place to analyze and prepare automation opportunities.

For details, Peeriosity members are encouraged to sign into the members’ area to view the complete presentation and listen to the recorded Peercast.

iPollingTM Results Review

The results from a recent Peeriosity poll created using the iPollingTM technology provide additional insight into this topic.  The first question in the poll asked Peeriosity member companies about the extent to which their Shared Services organization demonstrates a culture of continuous improvement.  The results indicate that 55% of Shared Services organizations demonstrate a continuous improvement culture to either a high extent, where everyone understands the importance and it is widely used or to great extent, where a culture of continuous improvement is essentially the foundation of every work activity.  An additional 41% select the response of moderate extent, where everyone understands the importance but there are some gaps in practice.  Here are the details:

shared services organization demonstrating a culture of CPI ipoll chart result

The second poll question asked what would be the biggest help to the Shared Services organization to be able to increase continuous improvement as a part of their culture.  The top three responses were to have staff who are knowledgeable in tools/techniques to lead others (23%), making participation in continuous improvement projects a higher priority (22%), and making participation in continuous improvement projects a requirement (19%).  

biggest help to the organization to increase continuous process improvement in shared services culture ipoll results

A few of the comments from members include:

  • We have many CI initiatives that we worked on in 2020. We certainly can use additional focus and training on process improvement as most of our CI is around RPA development and reducing manual tasks. I feel that working with a remote workforce challenges CI as process people need to find a new way to watch the processes and look for gaps and opportunities. Challenging to try to do that through Zoom.
  • I think we do a good job of supporting continuous improvements and leveraging all of the above to an extent. That being said, resource limitations are always still an issue.
  • The challenge for us is looking at it from an end-to-end perspective.  Most employees look at it internally within their own team and they are not consistently looking at the bigger end-to-end process.
  • Adopted in theory, but in practice capability, tools, and process gaps prevent us from properly embedding it as part of our culture so far.
  • Continuous Process Improvement, if the employees are equipped appropriately, will go a long way in streamlining the processes and having a long-term positive productivity impact.
  • Instilling this in a culture means it has to flow from the top down (giving tools and resources) as well as bottoms up (encouraging and supporting ideas from the individuals who perform the tasks every day). The larger the company, the more difficult I find it is to make a change – more functions need to be involved, and IT support is frequently needed to automate a formerly manual process. Every leader needs to consistently send the message that new ideas are encouraged and supported, and then work with their team to drive them to a conclusion.
  • Global Operating Model (ERP systems & processes) of continuous improvement is a core strategic tenant of Finance Shared Services with heavy attention to inclusive and systemic governance programs in place.

Closing Summary

Continuous improvement can reap significant benefits when the appropriate focus is placed upon it by Shared Services leadership.  As was well demonstrated by our feature company, if there is a vision for how the program should operate and a concerted effort to make this an inherent part of the day-to-day operation of the Shared Services organization, great things can be achieved with a reasonable commitment of time and resources.

Have you implemented an effective continuous improvement program in your Shared Service operation?  If so, is it reaching its full potential or are adjustments necessary?

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


“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. 

 “iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility to all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPollingTM.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.

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