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Continuous Improvement, Uncategorized

Do you really understand the journey to Continuous Improvement?

Part 1 of 2:

I’ve worked with a number of client organisations who have recognised that their current performance simply isn’t good enough. This is a typical starting point for many who aspire to create an environment where Continuous Improvement is the norm. Indeed, many of the most successful CI processes were developed in organisations that were in deep trouble; either with customers, stakeholders or financial performance.

The three phases that every organisation typically has to go through on a Continuous Improvement journey are shown below:

 

 

 

In phase 1 you recognise the need to do something about today’s performance and implement problem solving or process improvement projects to address the key issues.  This buys you time and builds pockets of improvement capability.  This phase might last 6-18 months. If you’re not seeing a Return on Investment in less than 12 months, you’re not doing it right.

In phase 2 you establish processes and systems to hold the gains and to bring the organisation under control.  A clear focus of this phase is process management, including a greater emphasis on measurement of process performance.  This phase might last 2-5 years and it’s at risk when senior managers move on, get bored or leap onto the next bandwagon.

In phase 3 Continuous Improvement becomes a way of life.  You won’t hear people saying “we’re doing Lean”, or “we’re adopting the Excellence Model”; the principles and practices of CI are embedded in everyone’s day job and the organisation has the processes and data to be able to demonstrate it performs at “world class” levels.

One of the main lessons is that there are no shortcuts in what has to be done to achieve a culture of continuous improvement; you have to go through each of the phases. What you can do is improve your chances of success and potentially reduce the time taken to achieve success.

In part 2 of this article I will talk a bit more about what typically happens in each of the three phases and some more lessons learnt.

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