There are two simple things you can do to create a culture of continuous improvement in your company.
- Visualise the work. This allows you to see where problems are in the flow of work you do to get things done.
- Limit the work in progress. Many people think that multi tasking means you can get a lot done. In fact, the opposite is the case, (also here). Multitasking more than two things almost guarantees that none of them will happen.
This often challenges the way people work in fundamental ways. We work with you and your people to help them understand these two principles and then look for the common problems that become apparent when you visualise the work. In general the people doing the work know how to resolve the problems with a little help, once they can see them.
This also also flies in the face of the culture of keeping lists, instead of feeling beaten up by what needs to be done you can instead make sure that what needs to be done is done.
Efficient or Effective?
Efficient work means that it is being done as fast as possible for the least effort. Sadly, this doesn’t mean that the work is the most effective. Effective means doing the right thing – it doesn’t matter if you don’t do it efficiently, because at least it’s closing in on the needs and capabilities you require to keep the lights on. Ackoff, in his book Re-Creating the Corporation makes this point:
Control is a double-edged sword; it involves doing things right (efficiency) and doing the right thing (effectiveness). It is better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right. Unfortunately, the righter we do the wrong things, the wronger we become. In some cases, increases in efficiency can decrease effectiveness.
I discuss this at some length in the book Unicorns in the Mist.
Feedback and retrospectives
Another much under used tool is feedback. Many organisations keep making the same mistakes over and over again, with the refrain why doesn’t somebody do something? Using regular retrospectives to gather information that will give you a way to find improvement in what you do is a key practice from agile software development, but why should the software people keep all the good ideas to themselves? This works with any team, in any industry, all it takes is knowing how. We have many years of experience facilitating retrospectives and helping to create good practice. There is one small caveat, if people identify a problem and a solution then it should be acted on, or all the goodwill will fade away.