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Do you find change a bit messy?

When you start out on a new path of change it can often be a little messy. The idea you have in your head doesn't always appear when you try the 'new thing' for the first time. As this is so true of many continuous improvements I thought I would share a few of my thoughts on the matter.

When a business identifies improvements in its communication then some form of meeting is usually instigated to improve the said communication issue. I'm a big fan of standardised meetings. These are meetings that are focused on very specific outcomes, are usually as short as they possibly can be, and support the effective routines already defined by the business. Often the first few meetings bring up all kinds of additional issues that the business is facing. This noise can be distracting and it may take a few meetings to get past this confusing stage and into short productive meetings.

Writing Standard Operating Procedures (often referred to as 'SOPs') are another case in point. When you write a SOP for a specific process or product in your business you may face a similar amount of noise. The 'one best way' method that you have defined may run into problems when people try to use it and find it difficult to follow. This may be reflective of the words used, the level of graphics / images in the SOP itself, or the sequence of operations that have been chosen. Whatever the reason is, you can get past this contention and find yourself on the right side of the change, if you work with the feedback.

And what about specific improvement methodologies? When you find yourself using SMED (Single Minutes Exchange of Dies), OEE, visual management, or whatever, the initial attempts may not produce ideal outcomes. The key once again is to persist, learn and eventually get the hang of making the change stick. All of the common improvement  tools and methods work, the question is can you make it work in your business? Your perspective, your business' culture and your team can all make a huge difference. Choosing a suite of tools that suit the way that your business works can make life a lot easier, before you even try to deploy them.

All of these points, of course, lead back the continuous improvement cycle; PDCA. The 'Plan, Do, Check and Act' cycle is all around us. Whether you are involved in continuous improvement, helping a child learn to ride a bike, or reflecting on how you manage your staff, PDCA is lurking in the background. Embracing this simple 'experiment and feedback' loop is critical to seeing improvements through and certainly getting past the messy stage.

So, where do you find yourself on these matters? Is your business happily going into the chaos to come out the other end and reap the benefits that continuous improvement can bring with it? Or, like many businesses, do you need to work with your team to develop its ability to embrace the chaos that it might have to go through in order to get an improvement to work?

I'll leave you with that thought.


Giles Johnston
...fixing MRP systems and re-engineering business processes