Webinar Recording: Engaging Senior Leaders to Accelerate Your Continuous Improvement Program


I'm happy to have hosted a webinar that was presented by Stephanie Hill from KaiNexus, on December 5th at 1 pm.

It's titled:

Engaging Senior Leaders to Accelerate Your Continuous Improvement Program

You can now register to view the recording.

I recently recorded a preview with Stephanie, which you can watch or read about below:

Watch the Preview:



Mark Graban: This continuous improvement podcast. I'm Mark Graban, a senior advisor with KaiNexus, and we're joined today by Stephanie Hill. She is a senior lean strategist at KaiNexus. We're going to be talking about and getting a preview of her upcoming webinar. It's going to be presented December 5, 01:00 Eastern.

Mark Graban: It's titled Engaging Senior Leaders to accelerate your continuous improvement Program. So you can register for that now at kainexus.com/webinars. We hope you'll attend live. You can ask questions. We always do a lot of Q and A with the webinars.

Mark Graban: If you are watching or listening to this preview after December 5, the recording will be available. Or if you're listening to this before December 5 and can't make it, the recording will be there. I know you'll want to check it out. So again, kainexus.com/webinars or look in the show notes for a more specific link. But we're joined by Stephanie.

Mark Graban: Thank you for being here. How are you doing?

Stephanie Hill: I'm doing all right. How are you doing, Mark?

Mark Graban: I am doing well. I'm excited about the webinar. We're going to give a little preview of the topic. But first off, as we always do, Stephanie, in your own words, tell everybody a little bit about yourself and your background.

Stephanie Hill: Yeah. Hi, everybody. My name is Stephanie Hill, as Mark mentioned, and I am a lean strategist for KaiNexus. So if you are not familiar with KaiNexus, the mission for our company is to spread continuous improvement. So my role as a senior lean strategist is to really work with our customers to ensure that the technology that we provide really aligns with where the organization is taking their CI program, kind of both their short and their long term goals.

Stephanie Hill: My background is that I've worked in continuous improvement for 23 years in about six different industries. I have my Master black Belt certification in Lean Six Sigma, and I have certifications in Strategic Human resources leadership and scaled agile. I live in Ohio. If you want to know what I like to do, just send me over a Lego set, because building Legos is probably one of my favorite. That and I probably chilling out with my two Ginger cats, Lucy and Henry.

Stephanie Hill: That's about me.

Mark Graban: Well, we got a couple of fun facts there. Did the cats ever interfere with the Lego building? I bet they would, yes.

Stephanie Hill: I've had to store them all because my younger cat, Henry, he's just a year old now, and he destroys them. He just dive bombs them. Yeah.

Mark Graban: And we'll see if we get a feline guest appearance here sometimes. I've seen a cat very directly kind of wander through, and that happens for others. We shall see. So thank you for sharing what you do and what you've done before joining KaiNexus. Stephanie.

Mark Graban: So the topic for this webinar, I think this is going to attract a big crowd, this question around engaging senior leaders. A lot of people watching or listening, a lot of people who will be attending the webinar are probably in the middle, and they're leading people, and they're also trying to manage up. So I guess my one preview question for you is why this topic, in your own words, of why is this so important? And what's at least a glimpse into some of the recommendations or advice that you'll share in the webinar?

Stephanie Hill: Yeah, I think my passion for this topic comes from a couple of different lenses. So, first of all, with the KaiNexus perspective, we work with customers every day, and it's very clear that the continuous improvement culture and mindset throughout the company really relies on strong buy in from the senior leadership team. I consider them like the influencers of the company. So if they're modeling the behavior and the values that they want to see in the organization, it depends on them being engaged. And then the other side of it is, as a CI practitioner, I've just witnessed a number of CI programs that have been really successful and thriving, and they've had one senior leader who was really backing the program.

Stephanie Hill: And if that senior leader leaves the company, unless they have a good relationship and good buy in from the other executives in the company, that program can start dwindling. And so I know from both lenses, I would say I really see the need to engage senior leaders and really leverage what they can bring in order to spread continuous improvement through the program. So the webinar itself, we're not going to talk about just engaging one person. We're going to look at the entire senior leadership team and look at the gaps for whether you might want to have each person in terms of their engagement level. And then we'll talk about ways to sort of build an action plan for yourself in influencing them.

Mark Graban: Yeah. As it says in the webinar description, attendees will gain clarity on the need for executive buy in and engagement. And so I'm curious to learn more about how do we understand those needs. What I hear you saying is approaching different executives may have different needs. Is that fair to say?

Stephanie Hill: Yes, definitely. I mean, they're just different individuals just like anybody else. So we wouldn't come to someone on the front line and treat everyone like everybody else on the front line. So again, we want to look at every person and their unique wants and needs and how they can use CI for their own interests and really drive that for their employees, too.

Mark Graban: It seems like some of that would be sort of role based, but some of it may be just individual human differences, different experiences, different drivers. Is that fair to say?

Stephanie Hill: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think if you're looking at, you can look at it at the industry level, you can look at it at the role level, but again, like the individual. So if somebody were working in human resources, maybe they're looking at the CI program as maybe the problem of attrition isn't so bad because we're now able to streamline the work and people are more productive. Something along those lines. However, the person who is in that role in human resources may really find value to witness the engagement of people at the front line.

Stephanie Hill: They may see better morale, and that might be something that's a big driver for them, more so than any metric that they've been tracking. So it's kind of getting to the heart of what's important to them.

Mark Graban: And maybe final thing to touch on before we wrap up here, a lot of times if people are attending webinars, it's a fairly passive experience. You're watching, you're listening, you're looking at slides. We hope people submit questions. That's the one interactive thing that we always do a lot of. But as it says here on the registration page, it sounds like it's going to be more active that it says participants will walk away with a plan for increasing executive engagement.

Mark Graban: So you're going to have people working on that during the session?

Stephanie Hill: Yes, definitely bring a pen and paper because we're going to have you do some writing and thinking as we go through.

Mark Graban: Well, good. That's, it's going to be exciting. And all the more reason for people I'll encourage, as I always do. Again, people can always check out the recording, but please do attend live. You'll have the chance to interact with Stephanie and ask questions and make it an even more interactive experience.

Mark Graban: So if you can, join us live December 5, 01:00 Eastern. Again, the title is engaging senior leaders to accelerate your continuous improvement program. You can go to kainexus.com/webinars or again, look for a link in the show notes or the YouTube description. So, Stephanie, thank you in advance for doing the webinar. I'm looking forward to it.

Mark Graban: And thanks for doing a nice preview today.

Stephanie Hill: Thanks. I'm looking forward to it too.

Mark Graban: Great.

Stephanie Hill: See you all soon.

Mark Graban: We'll see them Kai-next time.

Stephanie Hill: Bye.

Engaging Senior Leaders to Accelerate Your Continuous Improvement Program

The Importance of Executive Buy-In for Continuous Improvement Culture

When it comes to embedding a culture of continuous improvement (CI) within an organization, the commitment of senior leaders is paramount. Executives serve as the influencers and gatekeepers of company culture, often setting the tone for what becomes the norm across all levels. When they actively model the behaviors and values associated with CI, they encourage widespread adoption and help to create a cohesive environment where progress and efficiency are continuously sought and celebrated.

Organizations frequently face a paradox, though. On one hand, a thriving CI initiative requires the endorsement and active participation of senior leaders. But on the other, these senior leaders must juggle numerous responsibilities, making it challenging for them to engage deeply in any one particular program. Recognizing and addressing this balancing act requires strategic planning and a tailored approach.

The undeniable truth is that an organization's continuous improvement journey can be significantly impacted by changes at the executive level. When a key leader who champions CI departs, there's a risk of the program losing momentum and priority–unless, of course, there's robust buy-in from the rest of the leadership team. Thus, maintaining a full complement of engaged leaders is not just beneficial for the stability of CI initiatives but essential for their growth and longevity.

Strategies for Engaging Each Leader Individally

Senior executives are individuals first, with distinct roles, objectives, and personal motivators. Appropriate engagement strategies must be multi-faceted, acknowledging that one size does not fit all when it comes to influencing leaders. Approaching executives should be akin to engaging with frontline employees: by identifying their unique needs and framing the CI program as a beneficial tool for fulfilling those needs.

For instance, a leader in human resources may be drawn to a CI program that offers solutions to high employee turnover, while simultaneously fostering a work environment that enhances employee satisfaction and productivity. Another leader, perhaps in a finance role, might value the program for its potential to identify cost-saving opportunities.

Professionals rooted in different business units–from Operations and Sales to IT and R&D–will have varying perspectives on how CI can enhance their spheres of influence. For CI practitioners, this requires a combination of meticulous planning and personalization of their communication strategies. The goal is to resonate with each leader by connecting the dots between CI processes and the individual's aspirations, challenges, and measures of success.

Developing an Action Plan to Elevate Executive Engagement

Active participation in any program can notably transition from a passive endorsement to a full-fledged commitment. Seminars and interactive sessions targeting CI program engagement offer avenues to create real-time action plans that address how to increase executive engagement within an organization. These events can be transformative, encouraging participants to interact, ask questions, and take away a robust and actionable engagement strategy.

During such sessions, participants are generally encouraged to come equipped to work on their plan. Engaging in writing exercises and reflective thinking is essential, as this helps to solidify concepts and tailor strategies to their unique organizational contexts. For example, selecting which executives to approach first, building rapport, addressing each leader's concerns and interests, and suggesting meaningful ways for them to participate in CI initiatives could be part of the action plan. These interactive seminars can truly be a fertile ground for learning, engagement, and holistic growth for both individuals and their organizations.

Conclusion: A Comprehensive Approach to Fostering a Sustainable CI Environment

Leadership can either be a great enabler or a significant barrier to the spread and adoption of CI within an organization. Ensuring that senior leaders are fully engaged often requires a careful, personalized approach that considers the peculiarities of roles and individual characteristics. Through webinars, workshops, and dedicated CI strategy sessions–like those offered by KaiNexus–CI practitioners are equipped with the needed insights and tools to foster a supportive environment for CI.

Emphasizing the need for executive buy-in, aligning CI objectives with executive goals, and creating actionable engagement plans serve as critical steps toward building a robust CI culture. As companies continue to evolve in an ever-changing business landscape, the ability to continually improve becomes a distinct competitive advantage–one that is best achieved through the complete alignment and active participation of every stratum of leadership.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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