Surviving and coming out ahead in these turbulent times demands that we all think carefully and choose well what to study and improve.
As Bill Conway frequently said, “At least 50% of improvement is working on the right things.”
Organizations that are able to engage people in making good, fact-based decisions about what to work on and then execute with laser focus reap huge gains.
An opportunity search is key. That means that we must identify and act upon the opportunities for improvement that will potentially yield the greatest results.
In many cases, organizations do not focus on identifying waste, but instead come up with lists of idea driven improvements. That is, someone comes up with an idea for an improvement, puts together a proposal, and then tries to implement it.
The problem with the idea-driven approach is that there is very little correlation between the list of ideas for improvement and the biggest problems or opportunities for improvement within the organization. The idea-driven approach to improvement depends on someone identifying a solution at the outset. But the biggest opportunities are usually buried in the tough long-term problems for which solutions are not immediately obvious to anyone! If a solution doesn’t occur to someone, the problem doesn’t make the list. If it doesn’t make the list, it is never studied sufficiently to come up with a solution.
Organizations get further faster by identifying the waste first and choosing the best opportunities from all of the areas of waste you have identified. A portion of the waste is easily spotted and addressed if you take the time to collect the information. But much of the waste is hidden — built into budgets, accepted practices, current operating procedures, and shared assumptions. It is built into processes that are compensating for problems that have not yet been solved. This waste is difficult to see without expanding the vision of what is possible.
Our next post will focus on best practices for seeing “what is possible” and for identifying the best opportunities for improvement.