Continuous improvement is just that, a continuous effort to instill improvement in process, people, and technology. Some clear signs that organizational continuous improvement is not at play include frequent witness to any of the following statements:
“Everything seems to be working fine, why should I change?”
“If everything appears to be running smoothly, why should I change? “
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
“Don’t mess with a good thing.”
“I’ve already fixed that, don’t worry about it.”
Continuous improvement has surpassed any notion of becoming a cliché and has become a necessary component of any high performing organization. At its core, continuous improvement can be broken into three fundamental elements:
Challenge the status quo by developing and testing new solutions. Never accept the current state as satisfactory, but seek to continuously attempt new solutions to improve efficiency and outcomes. Companies like Apple continue to increase earnings as a result of continuous innovation. Where would they be if they had been content with the outcome of the first iPod? At a minimum, the letter “I” would certainly have received less press.
Resolve to problem solve rather than construct silos and point blame. Whether applying the DMAIC model or resolving to apply common sense and seek diverse inputs, consistent problem resolution, rather than ignorance, is vital to ensuring improvement remains continuous. Can you imagine if the NASA space program had decided that good was good enough and only those problems which presented any significant level of risk need be resolved? The space program would have ceased long before now.
Modifying our mindset too consider all stakeholders as an ingredient to the outcome. Innovation requires input and guidance from suppliers, internal stakeholders, and customers. Problem solving is most effective when approached holistically, including inputs from a diverse group of stakeholders. Upon boarding a plane at the Pearson Airport, I noticed the swarm of individuals actively working to prepare the plane for takeoff. Loading luggage, safety checks, fueling, and several other activities were completed in tandem. An excellent example of collaboration by a diverse group, all with the solitary goal of ensuring the airplane is prepared for a timely takeoff, expeditious flight, and subsequent safe landing.
Success and survival are contingent on continuous improvement. Not as a program or a buzz word used frequently by the Quality group, but a mindset that is embraced by everyone in the organization, and across the Supply Chain. Good enough is never enough to further success.
© Shawn Casemore 2011. All rights reserved.