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'Winning Ugly' with Process Improvement

When we start out on our improvement projects, whether we are 'going lean' or for another reason, we sometimes find that our grand plan of how the improvement is going to progress differs from what we actually experience. An approach often referred to as 'winning ugly' (achieving the result, but possibly not in the way you first envisioned, is a nice way of putting it) is a good one to keep in mind when you are faced with projects (and even individual meetings within those projects!) that aren't going to plan.

An obvious point that I see on a regular basis is the amount of detail and planning that is put into the improvement project plans because of the fear of having to win ugly. Now, this is not to say that you should skimp on the details and start with a poorly thought out project, but the phrase 'fit for purpose' certainly comes to mind. Unnecessary polishing of project plans delays taking action. Get the plan fit for purpose and then start taking action.

As improvement projects encounter resistance from those participating, unforeseen problems and delays in decisions being made, it is worth remembering the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) approach and refine and develop as you go. Not only will this help you with your future projects but it will also help you with day to day negotiation of your current project as you attempt to realise the project's benefits. Winning ugly is all about adaptation when it is required.

Winning ugly is about rolling with the punches on an improvement project. If you have tools like PDCA and kaizen in your arsenal  then you will be far more flexible to reach the goals of your project.

  • People don't always respond the way that you hope they will. 
  • Ideas often don't quite work the way you hoped when you planned them. 
  • The status quo you had planned against often changes midway through project. 
Factors that can affect your project can change without warning, but if you keep the 'winning ugly' idea in your head, with flexibility, persistence and a little creativity, you can realise the benefits of your improvement projects more effectively.


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