Tag Archives: why quick wins matter in CI

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.”

Continuous Improvement Quick Wins: Risks & Rewards

house_built_of_cards_400_clr_9356As noted in our previous two posts, Quick Wins can be a powerful means of moving teams into action.

But achieving a quick win is more easily said than done and going after Quick Wins is not a sure fire strategy. In fact, there are a few common pitfalls:

  • Analysis shortcuts… In an effort to implement a solution quickly a team might skip over the analysis. This is fine if trying the solution is cheap, and if it is quick and easy to determine if it solved the problem. Otherwise it is better to do more analysis up front to make sure that the solution you want to implement will actually yield improvements.
  • The first idea is the only idea… Sometimes, when you aim for speed, you get a rush to judgment resulting in sub-optimization. If “the first idea is the only idea,” it is quite possible more thoughtful consideration of the alternatives could surface a substantially better solution.
  • Band-aides… 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.
  • Off-the-shelf ideas… Often a Quick Win is really just an idea someone has been carrying around for a while. When an organization is introduced to Continuous Improvement, a flood of these “off-the-shelf” ideas may be surfaced. 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 “on the shelf” ideas get used up.

Quick Wins are important elements of an organization’s Continuous Improvement efforts, and 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; and allowing 24 hours for feedback and improvements on the idea can identify ways to make it even better — with minimal impact on speed.

A “Quick” Shot of Adrenalin for Continuous Improvement!

time_is_money_800_10875The key elements of a Quick Win are simple: it must be quick and it must be successful; it must be completed in 4 to 6 weeks at most, but many are implemented much faster.

And as noted in our previous post, Quick Wins are a powerful means of moving teams into action.  Consider that education, promptly followed by action, yields motivation… and success inspires success!

Theoretical opportunities and methodologies are meaningless until a person starts to see the possibilities through real-life hands-on process improvement.  So a Quick Win is a shot of adrenalin for a Continuous Improvement culture.

A few more reasons why, in the realm of Continuous Improvement,  Quick Wins matter:

  • The people involved get a great deal of satisfaction when their effort pays off, and pays off quickly.  They are more inclined to look for another such improvement.
  • The people who see or hear about the Quick Win are often inspired to begin looking for their own opportunities for improvement… so the motivational value of a Quick Win makes the return on the effort even higher.
  • A Quick Win starts paying off sooner and this can have a significant impact on the total return from the improvement.

In short — Quick Wins are an indispensable tool for any continuously improving organization!

Driving CI With Quick Wins

clockWhen it comes to Continuous Improvement (CI), time is definitely a factor.

When a project moves too slowly without tangible, measurable benefits, enthusiasm wanes and malaise creeps in.  And the longer something takes, the more expensive it becomes!

So in the realm of CI, action — and achieving some “quick wins”— is what it’s all about. It matters not a bit what training you provide, slogans you use, or posters you post if you do not promptly move into action to get things done, measured, and stabilized so the solution sticks.

Quick Wins are a powerful means of moving teams into action.  But achieving a quick win is more easily said than done.

In our next few posts we’ll discuss Quick Wins, why they matter, what can go wrong, and how to increase the chances of success.