Continuous improvement is important and necessary to maintain sustainable programs. However, all too often, the pursuit of improvements can result in activities, that while good, may not be improving the overall outcomes for the organization. This may be due to poor program alignment or goals that are not specific and measurable. However, sometimes it is because the goals themselves need to improve. To achieve better outcomes we need to pursue outcomes that are better.
When considering improvement initiatives it is helpful to ask open ended questions that help clarify direction and ensure that improvement activities are advancing the right things. Here are a few "What would it be like if" questions that may help take your program to the next level:
What would it be like if ...
the places we worked at were more productive and safer?
improvement initiatives were fully embraced by all levels of the organization and people enjoyed doing them?
operational excellence initiatives were better coordinated and integrated into work management processes.
the management systems we used were simpler, more effective, and tied closer to the work we did?
the information we needed to do our job was accurate and provided without having to look for it?
we had the support we needed to do all the work that was asked of us?
management had an increased understanding of what and how work was done?
all facility changes (MOCs) were documented and all process information was updated and maintained in a timely manner?
companies took better care of the environment and at the same time increased economic benefits?
front line workers were more engaged and managers encouraged and supported improvement initiatives?
Asking the right questions is often the most important step when deciding how to proceed with improvement initiatives. This can start by asking if the direction itself needs to improve.
What examples can you come up with when changes where made and the program goals were not achieved?
What examples can you come up with when program outcomes did advance and yet the overall situation did not get any better?
What would help align improvement initiatives so that program outcomes were met and they also made things significantly better?
What step can you take to towards making improvements that produce better outcomes?