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What are you improving for?

The end result of an improvement usually reflects the planning and decision making that takes place at the beginning, when the idea is being developed. If there is no planning and the improvement is a stab in the dark as to what needs to change then the final result may not be what was expected.

The 'what are we doing this for?' question is a great place to start. Sometimes improvements are spotted mid thinking, so to speak, and if you work backwards just a little further you may uncover a more meaningful issue to resolve. This minor change can deliver a major difference in terms of business performance and is along the lines of root cause problem solving (solve the root cause and not a symptom).

The fact that an opportunity is present does not always mean that it should be improved. With limited resources it may be prudent to widen the vistas and see what other opportunities are also available. Many continuous improvement approaches struggle due to an overload of less than brilliant improvements which eventually clog the system by depleting resources to make the changes. A simple priority system / grading can help alleviate this problem.

The design of what the business can look, feel and behave like after a round of improvement activity may also help to drive the right kind of improvement projects. This is not saying that the opportunities currently on the table aren't valid, there is usually merit in every improvement suggestion However, prioritisation and focus are required to make business improvement meaningful and efficient and stopping to step back and evaluate your journey and imminent choices can save a lot of time and effort. Dead ends can be avoided!

If you are finding yourself stuck with making improvements for any of the reasons stated above then take a time out and decide how you want to handle your improvements and decide where you want them to take you.

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