A culture of continuous improvement helps companies do better. Shamaym’s model teaches organizations how to build it - just ask the managers they’ve already worked with
By this time of year, most companies are immersed in building their 2020 work plans. This entails setting annual goals and objectives – which often include some form of growth – and laying out steps to achieve them. While planning is a critical step for success, even the best plans, when implemented, meet curveballs and unexpected challenges. That is why in order to meet, and even exceed, goals for growth, companies need to constantly improve their performance.
“As managers, we want the organizations we lead to improve and learn, without taking time away from our day to day,” says Ofir Paldi, Founder & CEO of Shamaym, which impacts organizational performance by building a culture of continuous improvement. “Improvement doesn’t happen by itself. It needs to be built intentionally. What does that look like? We can define opportunities for learning, dedicate time to learn from our teammates’ lessons, and choose KPI’s to assess the quality of our learning along the way, correcting course if needed”.
According to Paldi, when it comes to building and implementing annual work plans, managers tend to get stuck on short term objectives instead of cultivating the tools they need to reach their broader goals. “We think of learning as something we can delay. But if we build a work plan for 2020 in December, only evaluate whether its working in six months, and realize that it isn’t leading us toward our goals – then we’ve set ourselves back. During that time, we were not improving. Learning has to happen regularly, not just quarterly or annually.”
Regular learning offers ongoing opportunities to implement lessons. So by end of year, when companies are building next year’s work plans, is the perfect time to pause and review the most relevant lessons from last year.”
Focus on solutions, not blame
“At the companies we work with, we want to instill a culture where both managers and employees know how to ask ‘what can we do better – starting tomorrow morning – to achieve our goals?’. There are many ways to learn. We think the best way is a solutions-focused conversation that brings out the best in our people. That’s a big shift in thinking, and it’s crucial that employees understand it.”
“We’re not assigning blame, even when we talk about big problems. We want people to feel comfortable talking about difficult topics without worrying about retaliation. That’s the only way we can encourage our team members to participate, contribute, find solutions. By focusing not on blame, but rather on practicality – how do we improve, and ensure that we don’t make the same mistake tomorrow.”
“We have to Shamaym this!”
Founded in Israel, Shamaym launched its US operations in 2018 with pharmaceutical firm Karyopharm. The partnership came at a critical time for Karyopharm, three months before seeking FDA approval. “We wanted to work with Shamaym, but our management struggled with the timing and our team’s workload. We ultimately decided that this is the perfect time to start instituting culture change, to impact our results immediately – and we did see results, which helped us submit for FDA approval in a relatively short time period,” tells Ran Frenkel, RPh, Chief Development Operations Officer at Karyopharm.
“Yesterday I heard four employees discussing something that happened at work, and one of them said, ‘alright, we have to Shamaym this’. Meaning – this process has really become part of life here.”
Dr. Sharon Shacham, Karyopharm’s Founder, President, and Chief Scientific Officer, added that “as a company that seeks excellence and continuous improvement, we see Shamaym as a natural partner. The connection with Shamaym helps us meet our goals and objectives more efficiently, and on time.”
Continuous improvement through debriefing
Shamaym’s methodology focuses on getting employees at all levels of an organization to routinely learn lessons from their work – and implement them. This happens by regularly debriefing: asking yourself whether something you just did could have gone better, or if it went perfectly – why? Then asking what specifically you can do next time the same event happens to implement that improvement, or retain that perfection. When everyone in an organization does this on a regular basis, people learn, and results improve.
In Israel, Dexcel Pharma decided to work with Shamaym when it expanded its R&D organization, and sought to instill learning as part of its routine, instead of relying only on team members’ curiosity. Tomer Gold, VP R&D, says “we understood that a routine of personal learning and debriefing will help us shorten our training period, and retain and spread organizational knowledge. We needed to create a new organizational language around learning. So we decided to use Shamaym’s model.”
Gold adds, “the process we underwent with Shamaym’s help instigated a change in perception, first and foremost with our managers, and later with our field team as well. Shamaym’s model brings three key elements into our work routines – focus, personal responsibility, and actionable steps for improvement. This is a change in perception that leads people to take responsibility and actively initiate improvements, and that’s exactly where we want to see our managers and employees.”
“If employees don’t share a common language around learning and the discussion is not practical,” says Paldi, “meeting objectives is very hard. You end up in a scenario where people just want the discussion to end, with no conversation about improvement. Dexcel came to us with a clear objective – decreasing their report submission times. With cooperation from managers and employees, we met that objective. And along the way we changed the organization’s perception, creating a results-driven debate that led to small and repeating improvement.”
Learning must include change
The main idea behind Shamaym’s model, concludes Paldi, “is to shorten the cycle between learning and improved performance. Instead of waiting to learn from a project at its end, we learn during. That is how we create better results. It’s a culture well-suited to startups because they are constantly reinventing themselves. But other types of companies can adopt it as well.”
“Learning must include change. If we reviewed an event and learned lessons, but we didn’t implement them, we haven’t changed a thing – we haven’t learned. Companies that include learning and improvement processes in their 2020 work plans are most likely to reach the objectives they set for themselves next year.”