Continuous Improvement is More Than Measurement

Andrew’s recent reflections about the relevance of continuous improvement practitioners in these times mirror my thoughts with an added perspective. If lean thinking and continuous improvement were only about measuring production and process I would wholly agree. However, continuous improvement, in my mind, is more about positive change and moving toward perfection than it is specifically about process measurement. Measurement of tasks completed and widgets made is one of many ways to determine if you are improving.

Measurement of production tells you if you are meeting your goals. It is a way of keeping score. What about measuring the quality of life, attitude, self assessment, compassion, selflessness as it relates to employees and their families? Certainly change and improvement is needed is this arena, a least for some corporate leaders. (peanuts and publically funded retention awards immediately come to mind).

The tools of our trade cannot only include strategies to improve the measurement and thus quality of a process but must include teaching other less finite but still important concepts and work strategies related to maintaining a positive attitude in light of hard times. If you re-read Henry Ford and see some of the
potentially overwhelming challenges he faced while developing his product and process, you will see this added tool of continuous improvement being used.

We are more than our measuring tools. We are human beings working towards perfecting work processes and in some cases the people that control those processes. If we focus only on the process, we run the risk of making the people obsolete.

Comments 2

  1. Ed Birch

    I have spent my career designing and implementing improvement processes and a couple critical factors are apparent in all cases whether it is a sophisticated Six Sigma or a green field improvement processes
    1) Executive Commitment: If you do not have regular evidence of executive commitment, performane is lackluster,
    2) Cutural support: If the impact on culture is not assessed and a plan to gain support is not developed, progress will be sabotaged,
    3) Measurements: If success is not defined in the initial stages and success metrics undefined the program will loose momentum due to lack of recognition of achieving original expectations,
    4) Employee involvement: If we lack engaging an larger audience the burden falls on a few and sustainable improvement will see a sunset.

    Keeping this a priority in the planning process will insure against a short run initiative.

  2. Dike Drummond MD

    Yes Indeed ….

    CPI is about People … we can measure all we want and yet if our interventions and measurements do not end up increasing the capacity of our people to embrace and execute on the concept of continous improvement … the battle has been lost.

    When we focus exclusively on processes we don’t make people obsolete, we simply alienate them from the improvement process … they are outsiders … second class citizens to the numbers.

    The key is to incorporate the input and desires of the people throughout the process, building a shared vision and an environment of trust and respect along the way.

    My two cents,

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