Improvement comes in differing forms;
Fast – Slow
Continuous – Continual
Long-Term – Immediate
And so on….
Continual improvement is the sort that takes account of improvements that are on-going, the slow and continuous types that are normally based on long-term aims and the more immediate break-through types of improvement. The sorts of changes that make a real difference to the environment that are really noticeable. The sorts that normally take a certain amount of bravery as a leader, I would say only a leader can do make these sorts of improvements.
Continuous improvement is the realm of management, its a process that by its very nature must be maintained (managed) to conclusion, a conclusion that often is never going to be reached, the never ending cycle of meeting expectations.
Continual improvement of the break-through kind requires bravery, stubbornness, a degree of fearlessness and a good amount of confidence to follow through on.
So, what to improve?
Answer – the process.
And the method?
Plan – Do – check – Act (PDCA), this is an age old system of improvement, the more recent innovation in the cycle is;
Define – Measure – Analyse – Improve – Control (DMAIC)
- Begin by mapping the process keeping the end goal (customer priorities) in mind
- Identify the sub-stages that will make a difference
- Choose a project (projects will cross functional boundaries so systems thinking comes into it)
- Find a suitable measure
- Record performance
- Decide whats wrong by using process mapping
- Design experiments
- Record outcomes from the experiments
- Perform value analysis and validate statistically
- Determine the improvement to be made and the tolerances that are acceptable
- Implement the solutions
- Monitor and hold the gains
A final improvement cycle is the 8-D system;
- Use a team
- Describe the problem
- Contain the symptom
- Find the root cause
- Choose and verify the corrective action
- Implement permanent corrective action
- Prevent recurrence
- Congratulate and celebrate
In the end improvement is part of management, the keep it going bits but setting the direction, that’s all about leadership.