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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.

Discover practical improvement strategies to drive up productivity for both you and your business. Access the free tools section today by clicking here.

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Continuous improvement projects often fall foul of this. The day can become so inefficient through the constant stopping and starting that we only just seem to have enough time to get the 'day job' completed.

I was in a meeting last week where this same issue cropped up. It also cropped up today. It's nothing new, but it is still a pain in the rear!

So, let me share with you an approach that has worked for my clients - the 'Hour of Pain!'.

Where there is a (performance) gap there is a concern

I had a really good day yesterday working with a client's team.

The team has issues. Plenty of issues. Some are managerial issues, some are people issues and some are production issues.

When I first met the team they didn't know what to do with their issues, so I started by helping them to see more issues.

Issues everywhere, they didn't seem very impressed.

And then we captured the issues as 'concerns' into the tried and tested 'concern cause countermeasure' format and followed the process:

Concerns probed for root causes and root causes converted into countermeasures.
Soon they realised that some of their root causes dealt with numerous concerns and they gained momentum.

Yesterday we pulled another one of their processes apart and identified all of the gaps. The gaps became concerns and we fed them back into the process. Now they have a practical action plan (of countermeasures) to upgrade the process in question.

What do you do with your performance gaps? …

Free Continuous Improvement Guide

I have recently published a new free guide, with the title:
Six Quick Tips to Help Continuous Improvement Deliver Results Faster In the guide I share how to:
Use the continuous improvement cycle properly.Get projects moving, if they are slow to start or have stalled.Identify the 'biggest bang for your buck' when reviewing opportunities.Determine the level of change you need to achieve through your improvements.Flip staff grumbles and concerns into positive improvement actions.Increase the overall rate of progress on your projects. All of the tips are highly practical and are no-cost strategies.
To get your copy, just click on the button below and access the guide in just a few moments from now.

Enjoy reading,

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 and creator of the 'Making It Happen' continuous i…