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Initiative is taking action on one’s own. It generally involves going above and beyond a typical job description, or working outside of one’s functional area.

Many bosses want employees to take more initiative, especially in Lean companies, but fail to establish some of the basic prerequisites.

  • Trust: Employees have to feel that failure is forgivable
  • Empowerment: Employees have to feel that they are allowed to take action without guidance
  • Motivation: Employees must feel like there is something in it for them in return for the extra effort
  • Skills and training: Employees must have the ability to come up with good ideas and act on those plans
  • Communication: Employees must understand the goals of the company and department to make sure that their actions are in alignment

Having employees who take the initiative are the result of a lot of management investment, but the payoff is huge. More people in an organization contributing to its continuous improvement effort means a faster pace of improvement. And since that improvement compounds over time, the employee initiative can return huge dividends.

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