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Why Continuous Improvement Loves Persistence

Improvement projects don’t always pan out the way you might expect. Improvements often require an iterative approach, we need to try something several times before we realise the benefits of our actions. This article is a reminder of the need to be persistent when undertaking continuous improvement activities.

Persistence is vital when we know the direction but we don’t know the specific actions. If we only know the next couple of steps in our improvement journey then all we can do is take the steps. After we have taken those steps we will have new insights and ideas that we can develop into the next steps, but we must be willing to persist in that direction for long enough to achieve our goal.

When we undertake improvement projects some things will not go well, we will hit bumps in the road (so to speak). Our ability to move past these and strive towards our objectives is essential. If you upset people because of the way your improvement has manifested itself then say sorry, fix the problems, and then try again. Don’t stop trying to achieve the benefits you are aiming for.

Often our teams will require leadership as we go through these changes; we need to persist in the direction we have set in order to take them through the unknown, through the changes and uncertainty, if we want to achieve the results. Persistence is easier with a team if you have people who are ‘on your side’. Gaining additional perspectives from working with a team can also help ensure that you are persisting in the right direction. Part of the iterative approach might be to fine tune the direction you are travelling in periodically.

If we cannot achieve the exact result today then we can compromise, for now. We can implement a half way solution and then come back to the improvement when the timing (or money, or resources, or whatever is limiting you today) is better and take the next step in the improvement path. Instead of accepting defeat we can take the best opportunity we can at that point in time to move ourselves in the right direction.

Persistence is a great virtue and one that I believe is essential to making the kinds of continuous improvements that over time make a massive difference to the way that our businesses operate. I know that most of us really like the ‘big jump’ type projects, the ones where we bring in new technologies or large capital expenditure projects that offer a massive shift in performance, but we cannot ignore the smaller opportunities that are all around us. Many of these ‘smaller’ opportunities can in fact yield great results, and when you keep stacking the benefits up you can make a huge difference to the performance of a business. The experience of making changes to a business also prepares people well for the bigger jumps that will come along periodically.

We only have two real destinations when it comes to continuous improvement – forward or backward. Let’s make persistence our friend and move forward.

Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

P.S. For a simple system to help with your continuous improvement projects check out our guide, available from Amazon.