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Continuous Improvement: Do you generate options before developing a final plan?

Continuous improvement project meetings are a funny thing at times. Periodically I will sit in a meeting to look at an improvement project where the person leading the meeting will bring along with them a 'finished solution'.

The faces of the people sitting around the table will either look bemused, confused, happy or disappointed - the full spectrum of responses. However, it is usually only a small group that are sitting there looking happy; most of us would like to be involved with the design of a continuous improvement project (especially if it affects our working lives day to day thereafter).

Most of the time I am able to intervene and open up the design phase again, so that the non-happy people get a chance to participate and potentially steer the direction of the group.

This is the eighth waste in operation, isn't it?

You have a whole raft of brains that contain relevant experience, ideas and problems about the area you are trying to improve, so why wouldn't you want to tap into it?

Is it confidence, is it expedience, or something else? I am not sure.

What I am sure about is that if you do engage with your teams to look for improvements together you will get a few things:

  • A range of improvement opportunities that you haven't see before (including some brilliant ideas and some that are less than brilliant).
  • Improvement of the buy in to the final solution from those that have participated (assuming the selection process you use is appropriate, transparent and fair).
  • The potential for other improvements to start moving without you having to push too hard.
If you have read my latest book, Losing the Cape, you will recognise this strategy from my guide on moving to a higher level of performance in your business. The reason it is in the book, and at work in my clients (and pretty every other business that embraces continuous improvement), is that it works.

So, if you have a project you want to launch, one that you already have your 'design' for the solution and you haven't engaged with your teams, then why not try what I have suggested in this post?

At worst you will spend half an hour with your teams debating ideas and approaches. At best you will identify some great ideas that you have never seen before and potentially motivated your team.

Is it worth the investment in time to find out?


About the author Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who specialises in helping businesses to grow and improve through better business processes. Giles is also the author of Business Process Re-Engineering, Losing the Cape and creator of the 'Making It Happen' continuous improvement toolkit.

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