How do we overcome the employee objection “But I’m too busy to do this!”

Primarily, this is a question for your leadership – making clear your expectations of employees. You should encourage and arrange for all your people to spend some time (typically about 5% of their available work time) to work ON the business. To just ‘add’ to their existing workload denies reality and demotivates people. bear in mind though that managers will need to spend approximately 10% of their time driving this approach, and the CEO will need to devote approximately 25%-30% leading the charge.

That said, when someone does argue they are too busy, the best way to get them engaged is to ask them what labour-intensive process is the main cause of them being ‘time poor’, and then target that same process for a Fast Process Improvement (FPI) project. The express aim should be to free up some of their time! Once this happens, they will be keen to do more.

An interesting case in point involved the Supervisor of a production cell in a company that produced paper. In the past, he had been a negative influence over any suggestion to improve the processes for which he and his people had been directly responsible for two decades. As the firm’s consultant for excellence at the time, I and the company’s CEO were considering removing this person from the workforce. However, we decided to give him one last chance to come around to the new way of thinking. We obtained his begrudging agreement to having him become a member of a small, cross functional FPI team charged with improving ‘his’ process. We knew that the sequence of the standard 2-hour planning session is such that no team member could finish that session without supporting the collaborative recommendations for change that result.

Remarkably, this peer group experience turned this person around, so much so that this person is now a lead facilitator of other Fast Process Improvement teams in the business.

This was a salutary lesson for all concerned: You can’t always judge a sausage by its skin! No matter how sceptical they may be at the outset, everyone deserves at least one chance to get on board with these empowering techniques.

In today’s competitive world, it is no longer acceptable to be 100% committed to mere execution of existing processes. We all have an obligation to spend some of our time improving the processes with which we are involved.