What is continuous improvement and why should I bother. As we are pummeled with recurrent negative feeds from the media, those who are wise are not dwelling on these negative predictions but are preparing for opportunities. Whether you are a student, employee, business owner, or non-profit leader improving, learning, and growing is essential in sustaining success in every arena of life. As with any worthy endeavor, as we reach for our vision, obstacles naturally emerge in this quest. A fundamental quality of successful individuals and companies is their ability to understand and embrace these challenges, learn from them, and identify opportunities that materialize out of them. When we are caught in the trenches, such as in our current environment, it is difficult to alter the patterns of behavior and approaches as we are trying to solve these problems. This is evident in the financial struggles of automotive and healthcare as they are attempting to improve their situation with the same mental models they have used for years. In the words of Peter Senge “Mental models are deeply held internal images of how the world works, images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting. Very often, we are not consciously aware of our mental models or the effects they have on our behavior”* I have personally observed many approaches, some successful and some were not. I am confident to say there is no one size fits all approach. Some companies hear about a new approach or buzzword and they hastily adopt without first understanding the consequences. They subsequently get frustrated when it doesn’t go as planned.
So what is continuous improvement and why should I bother. Continuous Improvement is not about buzz words, six sigma, lean, kaizen, or any other management trend of the day; it’s about exploring, learning, growth, reflection, and change. Without these fundamentals, systems and approaches will ultimately fail. How many stories have we heard from our friends, families, and colleagues about individuals and companies who refused to grow and learn? Coming from the former textile saturated south, this message resonates powerfully with my family and me. If you doubt that, ask the former executives and managers of this industry, or recently the Big Three. From the well spoken words from the father of quality movement W. Edward Deming, "It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory."
In my future blogs additions I would like to open dialogue on the different approaches to continuous improvement and where it is going in the future.
*Peter M. Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning
Organization, Doubleday Currency, 1990, p. 8.