When we start out on our OTIF (On Time In Full) improvement journeys, where we are is obvious; we’re at the start. Then we make some changes to our processes, working practices and management approach. Hopefully, we will see some changes taking place and the team will feel good about it. Sometimes, however, the journey can be tough and not straightforward.

Some businesses stall at this point and feel like giving up. At these points we then to forget the journey we have made already. We often feel as though we are still in the starting blocks.

Celebrating, for most of us, is motivating. It is especially useful at these points on our improvement journey, to reflect on the progress made and pat ourselves on the back. If you are starting to feel lost and wondering if you are on the right track, it is useful to celebrate your progress so far and renew your energies.

otif journey
Keep your celebrations simple, but part of your formal approach to change

Recap on previous successes

This is an opportunity to praise the good, including the direction of travel. There will no doubt have been some lessons learned along the way and potentially capitalised on. This direction of travel is the driver for the celebration. I must state here that celebrating the direction and the rate of progress are, arguably, two different things. If you start praising the direction and reinforcing the right behaviours early on, then you will maximise your chances of having an acceptable rate of progress too. If you need to be clear about how quickly progress is expected then be open about it with your team as early as possible.

Remind people of the journey travelled; improvements are soon forgotten as they become normal. The new challenges being faced can soon wipe away the confidence gained from overcoming the previous issues, for the majority of us anyway. Reminding ourselves that we can win, and celebrating what we have accomplished thus far, can reinforce the habit of persisting with the change programme and see us through to the finish line. Note – the finish line keeps on moving, but you get what I mean!

Throttle the OTIF journey’s focus

When the challenge of the journey seems overwhelming for some it is also useful to consider changing the focus. Instead of focusing on the overall challenge you can change it to just the next phase of the improvement, or the process that you manage. This simple change can be enough to allow stagnating managers to spread their wings again. If you are a fan of the Kaizen method, this is another good application of the psychological aspect of this approach; to grow confidence and gain momentum. Remember, more progress equals more opportunities to celebrate.

As journeys, like improving overall delivery performance, take time, it is important to pace ourselves. Going for consistency, rather than sprints, is a good strategy. Moderate your journey and be realistic about the pace you need to maintain. This approach attempts to avoid the blood, sweat and tears approach many businesses take. Putting enormous pressure on your teams only works in the short term and only when there is a clear need. Getting from 30% OTIF to 75% OTIF is a far different journey compared to that of moving from 90% to 98% OTIF. Adjust accordingly. As I said before, celebrate the journey even if it is a steady one.

Lock in the changes

As you progress through your OTIF journey, make sure that you lock in the changes to your business systems. Whether this is a procedure in your formal ISO 9001 system, a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) or an induction checklist, don’t lose the knowledge you have gained. Too many businesses are casual in this regard. “We’ll remember!” is the too often response. Let me give you a clue here. Most businesses don’t remember, in my experience, so capture, capture, capture! You can’t manage what you don’t remember…

You can use the formal development of your business systems as a trigger to celebrate. Many businesses struggle to make the changes, let alone make them stick. You need to recognise that if you can get both of these tasks done and cement them into your business via your formal systems then you are ahead of many organisations.

The celebrations don’t have to be lavish either. ‘Pats on the back’ come in many shapes and sizes. I personally don’t go in for celebrating with financial incentives or elegant parties. A heart felt thanks and pointing the good parts of the effort and change is often enough. Stopping to say ‘well done’ is enough for most people. The key is to stop and remember that you are winning!

Let’s recap

Finding ways to recognise the efforts and achievements of your team is key to a prolonged improvement journey. During this journey you need to:

  • Keep recalling the progress made to keep the sense of winning alive.
  • Keep people on track by throttling the size of the challenge when required.
  • Lock in the new knowledge via your systems and processes.
  • Say ‘thank you’, or celebrate in your usual fashion.

All of these points will help ensure that you make good progress and have something to celebrate in the first place.

If you are struggling with generating an improvement plan for your OTIF journey then don’t forget to check out The OTIF Improvement System.

The OTIF Improvement System

Enjoy the journey!

Giles Johnston

Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who consults with businesses to improve their on time delivery performance, ERP system performance and deploy Kaizen / Lean production methods. Giles is also the author of 'What Does Good Look Like?'.