Continuous improvement can be addictive. Identifying new improvements and making them come to life can be really satisfying, especially when you can see the benefits appear in your Key Performance Indicators.
So, why do some people get lost?
Is it because they have gotten involved with improvement for the sake of improvement and lost sight of why they need / want to improve?
Get clear before you begin
Clarity around what the improvement is meant to deliver, the target needing to be achieved, is vital. If we don't know why we are improving and specifically what needs to be improved any improvement is a good one... except we know that they are not - some give far better benefits for the same amount of effort!
Like the inverse of root cause analysis, it is possible to have many outcomes if you don't control the journey. With root cause analysis you can have many symptoms stemming from one root cause. Root cause analysis works so well because it drives a straight line to the real issue. We want a straight line to our maximum benefits and defining targets well is a way to do this. If we don't do this we might end up somewhere less than optimal.
Your team can get behind a clear target. Engaged teams that voraciously improve the business are brilliant, and something that I encourage. But, periodically, it is worth ensuring that the teams are working on the best activities for the business. Resources should be directed intentionally for the best part and clear targets can help achieve this.
Is it time to pause?
The solution and the plan can be developed once you have a clear target.
I see many businesses that get stuck in with the solution first. They have a tool, or strategy, that they can apply and the target gets created in an emergent fashion.
I would never say don't do this, but if you are feeling a little lost, that your improvements aren't hitting the bigger improvements that your business needs to address, then I urge you to consider setting your targets and pausing your improvement activity for a very short period of time. Don't pause for too long, but enough time to figure out if you are heading towards what you want.
A perfect way to start 2018
And isn't this a great time to look at your targets?
Before your New Year's continuous improvement activities get underway, perhaps this is the perfect time to pause and get your plans in order.
If you have your free membership of the Productivity Boost (you can sign up here, for free) you can use the rolling planning horizons approach to help you get even more of your improvements put into place.
Set your business some clear improvement targets, develop an effective solution and then an efficient plan to implement the changes.
All the best,
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 improvement toolkit.
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