Creating a culture of continuous improvement.

Ravensdown increased process engagement and generated more than 2,000 improvement ideas across their business, with the help of Nintex Promapp. In a recent webinar they shared their learnings with a group of process improvement enthusiasts. 

We sat down with Conrad Erasmus, Group Management Accountant at Ravensdown, after the webinar to cover off a few of the attendees' questions we didn't get to on the day.

1. What does continuous improvement look like for Ravensdown?

Three things come to mind:

  • Continuous improvement is about embedding a lasting culture of thinking doers who will constantly challenge the status quo.

    At Ravensdown, our focus on continuous improvement has resulted in engaging teams of people who contribute to our improvement efforts.
  • Process analysis is the foundation to continuous improvement (and lean or Six Sigma).

    Nintex Promapp enables this process analysis, which helps us identify and eliminate waste, and create productivity improvements.
  • We aim to achieve better than 80% of the ten key objectives in our continuous improvement three-year plan.

2. Can you tell us how you incorporate continuous improvement into your business planning, and how that relates to a three-year plan?

Lasting continuous improvement is a culture, not a business plan. Many businesses fail in their continuous improvement efforts, because they treat it like a fixed term project with a consultant implementing a bunch of whizzy tools. That’s not what Toyota built with Demming.

Business plans can - and often do - include specific improvement projects. However, without a continuous improvement culture, these plans will come to nothing. Remember the quote: ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’?

That being said, having a strong continuous improvement culture is part of Ravensdown’s strategy. We have a three-year plan for our continuous improvement culture, which is turned into action plans so continuous improvement champions know what is required in year one, two and three. Line managers know which continuous improvement projects have been prioritized, and factor this into their planning.

3. What was the main driver at the beginning of your continuous improvement journey? Was there a compelling need to change?

Interestingly, the need for change was there - the business was recovering from a decade of tough economic challenges in Australia, and needed to get back on track. I think people intuitively knew that something needed to happen, they just weren’t quite sure what.

I took a small, stealth opportunity to introduce some very basic continuous improvement tools to the finance team through a hands-on learning day.

From there others started to notice the changes we were achieving and wanted to be a part of it. Very soon after, we achieved CEO sponsorship and the rest is history!

4. Do you have timeframes for continuous improvement initiatives, and how are those determined?

Yes, timelines are determined by the relevant improvement team and approved by line managers. Factors for setting timelines depend on things like priority, available resource, seasonal activities etc. The management of our timelines is supported in Nintex Promapp.

5. What were some of the key learnings when you implemented Nintex Promapp?

Firstly, we love Nintex Promapp’s simplicity. By avoiding complexity while capturing our processes, we were able to gain a few quick wins. Try not to get bogged down with details like folders and function structures, because you have your swim lanes to indicate who is responsible for what, and Nintex Promapp’s powerful search functionality makes it easy for users to find the processes they are looking for.

Secondly, the notion that a process doesn’t have to be perfect to publish it is a really tough concept for most people - after all, we’re paid to do our best work! Teach your teams that feedback is not criticism, it’s an improvement opportunity. By surfacing a process, you are using the minds of many to polish it. Positive change is your friend.

Thirdly, if you implement Nintex Promapp purely to map processes you will lose most of the audience before you’ve started, because mapping processes is boring. The objective has to be driven from the perspective of improving performance, making work more efficient and driving out waste.

The opportunity to shine and be noticed is what motivates process improvement.

6. How did you identify your process champions?

We started our Nintex Promapp journey with the help and support of three Promasters, who took ownership of getting buy-in from our business teams. During Nintex Promapp training, the importance and value-add of process improvement dawned on a few attendees. Having the right people on board your improvement journey is key, so we invited those new ‘converts’ to get involved in our efforts.

Process champions add great value because they take accountability for process improvement and can drive your efforts, so process improvement becomes an ongoing activity that involves your teams, rather than an emergency response to a crisis. By communicating improvement wins, these ambassadors keep execs in the loop and business teams focused on how they can contribute to the process improvement journey.

7. How does your leadership team demonstrate their support for a process improvement culture at Ravensdown? 

Our leadership team sponsors continuous improvement, as well as Nintex Promapp. Ravensdown’s CEO believes continuous improvement empowers and engages people to take ownership at their work level. Very, very, few of our processes are owned by our leadership team, because the processes being mapped are not strategic, they’re operational.

Our continuous improvement culture is founded on a saying I use all the time, ‘The standard you walk past is the standard you accept’. This allows people to take ownership, leave feedback and make improvements without having to get executive approval each step of the way. 

Essentially, leaders can help drive process mapping by endorsing it in performance goals, or through structured action plans. There is no right or wrong way, it depends on the management style of each executive.

Comparing our internal auditor report to our Nintex Promapp processes creates leverage for the late adopters to get processes mapped. This is the least-ideal situation, however having to map a process often creates an aha moment about its benefits for teams that may be resistant.

8. What are some of the tips and tricks you’ve used to keep people engaged in process management?

Whenever we achieve a win, we spread the good news. At Ravensdown we regularly send out updates, stories and videos via our intranet, SharePoint. We do this to share how many new processes have been published and how many continuous improvement ideas have been generated. By celebrating small successes and making them part of your organization’s communication, you can integrate process improvement into your organization’s DNA.

Take the time to plan and execute communication within the business. There is nothing like a little friendly rivalry to spark people into action. Not all our people sit behind a computer all day - many are out in the field, and we have to reach them, too. This often means attending regional meetings and other opportunities where field staff come together.

9. How are you integrating continuous improvement process planning to link continuous improvement to risk management?

Currently risks are managed in spreadsheets with some management actions. They aren’t connected to processes, which is wasteful and disconnected. We are working towards putting these in Nintex Promapp and then linking them up to treatments and then processes. We use a risk assessment solution called Bowtie to do the root cause analysis and identify the really detailed information necessary, for managing the risk of our acid plants, or lime quarries for example. We will be linking those outcomes as treatments to our processes in Nintex Promapp.

Once this goes live, teams will be able to use the Nintex Promapp feedback feature to make improvements to risks, treatments or processes.

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