Category Archives: Quick Wins

quick win risks?

risk reward die

in our previous post it was noted that a lack of early success / quick wins can derail a CI effort. And in a past post, we shared more in-depth perspectives on quick wins and how an organization might best go about achieving them.

However, there are risks, and going after quick wins is not a sure fire strategy!

For example, without effective leadership, an organization may end up with quick failures instead.

Here are some additional examples of the potential pitfalls of pursuing quick wins:

To get a solution implemented quickly a team might skip over the analysis. This is fine in situations where it is easy to quickly determine if the solution worked. If trying the solution is cheap, and it is quick and easy to determine if it solved the problem, just do it! In such a situation, measuring the results is all the analysis you need. But if the results are not likely to be quickly visible or measurable, it is better to do more analysis up front to make sure that the solution you want to implement will actually yield improvements.

For example, if an organization is concerned about employee morale, there are many quick changes that could be made in hopes to improve it. But organizational morale cannot be measured daily or even weekly. It could take many months to know if a change was actually for the better. In a situation like this, more analysis up front is essential to choosing the right solution.

Sometimes, when you aim for speed, you get a rush to judgement
resulting in sub-optimization
, which is another pitfall. The first idea becomes the only idea in these situations, when a more thoughtful consideration of the alternatives could surface a substantially better solution.

In other words, an organization may simply resort to a band-aide or patch or work-around rather than a solution that addresses a root cause. These band-aides can accumulate until they represent a pretty big component of waste in themselves.

In other situations, a quick win is really just an idea someone has “on the shelf” — that is an idea they have been carrying around for a while. When an organization is introduced to Continuous Improvement, a flood of these ideas may be surfaced. But an off-the-shelf idea doesn’t provide a real cycle of learning in systematic process improvement because eventually people run out of ideas “on the shelf”.

Unless an organization really internalizes the search for waste, the study of facts and data, the search for root causes, and the testing then standardization of the solution, they don’t know how to keep improving once these “off the shelf” ideas get used up.

Similarly, speed does not necessarily mean a team must take short cuts in the process improvement methodology. Thoughtful exploration of alternatives can be bounded by time. Even 30 minutes of brainstorming alternatives or improvements to an idea can make a difference. Allowing 24 hours for feedback and improvements on the idea can identify ways to make it even better — with minimal impact on speed.

Clearly “quick wins” can be positive and can help sustain a CI culture, but only if they are approached in the right way.

You Want it When?

quick-wins

Continuing with the theme of driving and sustaining change, one proven way to get people on-board with new and better ways (i.e., improvement) of doing things is to achieve success – and to do so quickly!

Thus the concept of “quick wins” can be very important.

A “quick win” is exactly what it sounds like, that being a successful improvement made in a short amount of time. A few guidelines for defining and completing a “quick win” include:

  • Must be completed in 4 to 6 weeks at most (many are implemented much faster such as in a “kaizen blitz” where a small group focuses full time on an improvement for a day or two).
  • Relatively low cost of implementation (if a solution requires a significant capital it will likely take longer periods of time to gather approvals, funding, etc.).
  • Small or manageable team size. If an initiative requires a large team or cross-functional buy-in, chances are it will be a slow win if it succeeds at all. In fact, a quick win is almost always an improvement that can be completed with the people closest to the work and with the resources close at hand.

Sometimes a “quick win” is a high value improvement executed with speed. But even an improvement with small dollar impact can have a great ROI — because the time and expense invested is so low and the organization begins reaping the benefits so quickly.

In addition to making sustainable and potentially recurring gains in less time, there are numerous other benefits associated with a “quick win,” which include:

  • Builds momentum
  • Defuses cynics
  • Enlightens pessimist
  • Energizes people

A few best practices for successfully achieving “quick wins” are:

  • Don’t Let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If a problem appears to be too costly to tackle or if resources are not readily available, seek a more attainable “plan B” as opposed to tabling or abandoning the effort.
  • Eat the elephant one bite at a time. Many of us choose scopes that are way too big. A large scope greatly slows the work and reduces the likelihood of success, making the project into a lumbering giant.
  • Rely on the people close to the work, who often have the best ideas about the problem and possible solutions.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Have fun! A quick win is both satisfying and fun! Make sure you celebrate and spread the news!

An Execution Booster

Our previous few posts have focused on leveraging high-performance teams and agility in order to more effectively execute strategic improvement plans. An additional tool that can significantly boost the execution step is a “quick win.”

According to John Kotter, author of Leading Change and The Heart of Change, creating “quick wins” build momentum, defuse cynics, enlighten pessimists, and energize people.

The key elements of a “quick win” are right there in those two words: it’s got to be quick and it’s got to be successful.

A “quick win” must be completed in 4 to 6 weeks at most, but many are implemented much faster such as in a kaizen blitz where a small group focuses full time on an improvement for a day or two, or half-time for a week.

For a solution to become a “quick win” it is almost always an improvement that can be completed with the people closest to the work and with the resources close at hand. Sometimes a “quick win” is a high value improvement executed with speed. But even an improvement with small dollar impact can have a great ROI — because the time and expense invested is so low and the organization begins reaping the benefits so quickly.

Because of the speed imperative, if a solution requires a significant capital investment, it is not going to be a “quick win.” If it requires a large team or cross-functional buy-in, chances are it will be a slow win if it succeeds at all. Many “quick wins” do not require a formal team; often a natural work team can identify the problem and implement a quick solution.

We should also note that there are some potential risks associated “quick wins,” which we’ll discuss in our next post, after which we’ll share keys to successful “quick wins.”

Why “Quick Wins” Are Important to Your CI Effort

When it comes to Continuous Process Improvement (CPI), action is what it’s all about — thus the importance of “Quick Wins,” which require us to promptly move into action to get things done, measured, and stabilized.

A “Quick Win” must be completed in 4 to 6 weeks at most, but many are implemented much faster such as in a “kaizen blitz” where a small group focuses full time on an improvement for a day or two, or half-time for a week.

Because of the speed imperative, if a solution requires a significant capital investment, it is probably not going to be a “Quick Win.” If it requires a large team or cross-functional buy-in, chances are it will be a slow win if it succeeds at all. In fact, many “Quick Wins” do not require a formal team, but rather a natural work team can identify the problem and implement a quick solution. For a solution to become a “Quick Win” it is almost always an improvement that can be completed with the people closest to the work and with the resources close at hand.

Sometimes a “Quick Win” is a high value improvement executed with speed. But even an improvement with small dollar impact can have a great ROI — because the time and expense invested is so low and the organization begins reaping the benefits so quickly.

In addition to making sustainable and potentially-recurring gains in less time, there are a number of related or consequential benefits associated with “Quick Wins” as well. For example, according to John Kotter, author of Leading Change and The Heart of Change,  “Quick Wins” are important because they:

  • build momentum
  • defuse cynics
  • enlighten pessimist
  • energize people