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Choose one improvement project to complete

When we are generating ideas for improving our businesses one of the traps we need to avoid is getting caught up with the chasing of ideas at the expense of implementation. Are you one of those businesses who are great at identifying improvement opportunities but not so great at closing down an improvement and making part of your normal business life? If so, the rest of this article will hopefully give you some ideas on how to change this situation around.

Firstly, well done for generating so many ideas for your business! Many businesses find themselves in a position where they can see the immediate problems that their business is facing, but lack the vision on where their business could go to. What I am getting to here is that going from bad to OK is a different premise from going to OK to amazing (or excellent, or any other word you choose to use).

Generating ideas is vital to business improvement, but so is implementation. One of the simplest ways I have found to make getting the balance right is to clearly separate the two activities. It’s almost like putting a gate in between the two different processes.

Ideas are generated and then queued up. The selected improvements are then focussed upon until they are properly implemented. The way to manage this will vary from business to business, depending on the motivations, attitudes and abilities within each different business. The key point to note here is we choose on a method to queue improvement ideas and then use our collective resources to manage a project through to its completion.

OK, here is the easy bit. When you have a list of improvement ideas use some form of pre-agreed criteria to evaluate your list. Choose some qualities or characteristics that you want to see in an improvement project. Do you want low cost? Do you want easy? Do you want high impact? If you are familiar with the FMEA approach then you could rank and multiply each factor to give you a total for each project, or you could use a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for each factor present. Design an approach that makes sense to you and be consistent with its application.

Once you have prioritised your improvement opportunities then it is time to do the work. As I said before, you may want to use a multi-disciplinary team to get the job done, or you may want to manage this approach for each team / department within your business. Focus on one improvement until you complete the corresponding project, before you go back to pick another project from the list. In the meantime don’t stop generating ideas, just make sure that the ideas queue up nicely, not interfering with current implementations, until you are ready for the next round of prioritisation and selection.

Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer