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What are your improvement 'guiding principles'?

If you have read my other blog posts, or books, you will know that I continuously refer to a specific challenge within continuous improvement.

The challenge is what happens after you have improved all of the really obvious improvements.

I refer to this as being the difference between moving from 'bad to OK' compared to moving from 'OK to amazing'.

The first part of the journey is relatively straightforward. You see something that isn't right and you fix it. Simple.

So, what happens when you move past this point and you can't see as many things to improve? You need a different focus, you have to start looking somewhere else for your improvement inspiration.

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The other day I was talking to one my my client's member of staff about this very issue. The person in question was relatively new to the business and had made a big impact to the running and organisation of their manufacturing activities.

After a walk around the production floor we were discussing one of the live projects. Behind me was a list of 'guiding principles' and our conversation naturally drifted to this list.

Years ago I had a discussion with the owner of the business about the same challenge I mentioned earlier on. We decided to tackle both elements of the continuous improvement journey at the same time. We identified the key issues that needed addressing and created a vision of the future.

The vision of the future was distilled down into a set of guiding principles that we used at our meetings to shape and guide our continuous improvement journey. A few of them have evolved over the years, but fundamentally we are still on the same journey.

My conversation with the new member of staff was timely. They could see how the current programme of improvement projects aligned and how the queued improvements continued the journey.

If you find yourself struggling with where to take your continuous improvement programme, or want to create a vision for your business then I recommend pulling together your own guiding principles.

And, if you aren't sure where to start, then check out The Improvement Accelerator Framework, or my book What Does Good Look Like? to give you some practical ideas.

Having a set of guiding principles makes decision making and project selection easier in the long term. Keep the list manageable, for most people that means having between 7 and 10 principles.

You'll know what works best for you.


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 Effective Root Cause Analysis and 'What Does Good Look Like?'.

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