It’s the start of a new year, and many of us are thinking towards how we can improve – we have New Year’s Resolutions, as well as 2012 strategic plans, agendas, and goals. While “improvement” is a year-round and constant objective for Operations, I started thinking about a funny analogy I read recently about what weight-loss plans and process-improvement initiatives have in common. They generally start off well, with excitement and lofty goals, but too often they don’t have the lasting impact we hope for – people lose steam, or never get off on the right foot, and fall back into old habits.

To really achieve a lasting impact and the full benefits of any improvement plan, the key lies in instilling the right culture or mindset among everyone involved. As an example, I think about what we’ve heard from members about the challenges of creating a culture which promotes continuous improvement. While all members polled by the Council participate in some type of continuous improvement efforts (with two-thirds who have formal programs), less than half report that their initiatives are successful.

Why the disconnect? We’ve found that the biggest challenges executives face around continuous improvement involve building the right culture. Beyond simply introducing a program or rolling out a new campaign, the real work lies in actively engaging staff to participate in continuous improvement and enabling them with the right tools, platforms, guidance, and confidence so they feel comfortable doing so.

Read more about how to do this in our new research brief, Five Mistakes of Creating a Continuous Improvement Culture.