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Continuous Improvement in Your DNA?

Blog: Jim Sinur

Change is nonstop these days often driven by the need for better outcomes, but now equally driven by outside and sometimes unforeseen events/forces. The implication is that improvement will move from a cluster of improvement projects attempted periodically to becoming a business capability that will be highly prized.  Those organizations that build continuous improvement in their DNA will be in a more advantageous position to capitalize on change and thrive the best during more stable periods of time. This post will describe a seven-way helix that should be in your organization’s DNA to be poised for continuous improvement. 

The Culture of Shared Insight

Organizations in the past operated on keeping knowledge for advantage, but today the sharing of knowledge and insights is the way organizations prosper. This means that collaboration across all sorts of boundaries is the way to successful improvements. This means that the change and improvement process needs to take advantage of collaboration in a bigger way so that stakeholders, process owners, and implementors are encouraged to share their insights on the way to results. 

The Culture of Rewarded Innovation

Organizations in the past operated on not making mistakes or taking risks, but incenting innovation is the way of the future. This means that successes are prized, published, and rewarded, but also those who take risks and fail are not punished. Rewards for taking risks and feeding back when things don’t work are prized as well. How else is the learning organization going to thrive to be better and frankly there may be more than one ethical path to desired outcomes. 

The Culture of Holistic Goals

Organizations in the past operated on tactical results that delivered in the short term, often driven by the pressure for quarterly results. While we can’t change the quarterly pressure or the desire for short term results, we can design efforts that deliver partial outcomes while keeping the “big picture” in mind. This means that organizations are careful to not negatively impact the strategic long term outcomes with short term and sometimes temporary benefits. This means practicing the art of the long view and incrementally gleaning benefits. 

The Culture of “Adjustment of Now”

Organizations of the past were often driving through the rearview mirrors and making forward adjustments based on past experiences. While we shouldn’t throw away the past or the lessons to learn from past events/patterns, a new set of approaches need to be absorbed around operating in a real-time fashion to deal with emergent events/patterns to make critical adjustments to intercept desirable outcomes. Dashboards will turn to fast boards while combinations of machine learning AI and analytics will help cast future outcomes. 

The Culture of Funding Through Success

Organizations in the past took nearly all of the benefits from past improvements and dropped them to the bottom line immediately. The organizations with the right outlook will defer some of these benefits for future improvements or reserves to challenge unforeseen change. The idea of having a “success fund” that wisely invests in a portfolio of improvement efforts like a wise investor picks investments is a sign of a growing continuous improvement culture. 

The Culture of Time Boxed Improvements

Organizations in the past either let improvement projects languish over time with marginal funding and resources or shut them down prematurely when they didn’t deliver in the short term. The idea of having limits on the projects that deliver partial outcomes on the way to strategic delivery makes good sense. Putting a limit of 90 days duration an important tolerance is essential with the first 30 days focused on “what and how”, the second 30 days on the building of solutions, and the final 30 days on deployment, support, or measurement.  

The Culture of Providing Savvy Supports 

Organizations in the past were great at telling the change foot soldiers to take a hill but did little to equip them. Part of the successful funding should go for methods, tools, and techniques even if they are not perfect before the start of efforts. With today’s model of freemium cloud solutions, there should be tools available to leverage while the methods will evolve over time along with successful techniques that are gleaned from experience. 

Net; Net: 

The improvement project approach is getting obsolete and organizations will have to shift to continuous improvement with operations tuned in real-time and improvement projects done in a highly rewarded and strategically time-boxed approach. This is going to require a culture change to move from a batch suggestion box to real-time collaboration on stakeholder goals. There is a great shift coming as more change is inflicted by outside forces. Start building the continuous improvement culture now that is strategically aligned practicing deliberate continuous improvement in a problem-solving way.  

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