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Which Improvement Framework Should You Use?

Updated: Jul 24, 2019

Improvement Frameworks

In recent years, standards and regulations have specified the need for companies to adopt improvement models or frameworks for their risk and compliance programs. The need for maturing systems is not new and there are many: methods, frameworks, and models that can be applied to improve business and compliance processes.

Frequently, I come across those who promote approaches based on the CMMI framework along with those who suggest using the Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) cycle and everything in between.

At a high level, CMMI takes a capabilities and systems perspective to improvement and has been used successfully for years. What makes the CMMI framework so compelling is that it provides a way to assess process maturity. You can identify where you are and what the next step should be.

Likewise, the PDCA cycle has also garnered much attention due its success in improving quality. One of the ways that the PDCA cycle helps is when you know where you want to go but not sure exactly how to get there. It provides a way to take incremental steps, validate the results, and then advance further to the next objective.

The LEAN Improvement Kata (IK) also referred to as "Toyota Kata" goes even further. This is a coaching approach where the best coaches help the learner to learn to improve. It is more of a meta approach and Toyota Kata is an excellent example of how this is done.

The improvement Kata incorporates the scientific method to discover a path forward towards an overall direction instead of just a point improvement.

In my experience, the CMMI approach is well suited to program level objectives and initiatives. Whereas, the PDCA cycle provides an accessible approach for front line workers to identify and implement incremental and equally valuable improvements to existing processes. The Improvement Kata (IK) with its focus on direction can help to align processes to overall system and sometimes even program objectives.

Choosing a continuous improvement approach is important and you may need more than one. A common and unfortunate tendency is to use a "one size fits all" approach when making these kinds of decisions.

Whatever approach you take, the important decision is to make continuous improvement part of your process at the onset. Don't wait until the last step in your implementation plan for this to happen. What is even better is when continuous improvement becomes part of your culture and practices at all levels of the organization.

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