Investing in Continuous Improvement?

investinemployeesNot too long ago. a member of a prospective client’s senior management team spoke of a past consulting relationship in which the recommended “solution” for improving their process was to buy a new (and expensive!) software package.

He went on to say, “Upgrading an IT system is not the kind of answer we’re looking for… we want to learn how to improve the work!”

We completely agreed…

This same topic came up during a more recent discussion among CI Leaders. The group recognized that many organizations invest in technology or IT systems hoping to improve productivity, but also noted this type of investment frequently fails to deliver a sustainable solution.

As one member of the group said, “Software rarely fixes problems; people do. A bad process, with new software, will only run faster, not better.”

Thus the question was posed, “What kinds of investments can lead to successful continuous process improvement?

Among the top suggestions:

  • Invest in the staff. It’s remarkable to me how little soft-skill training employees get, in areas such as communication, teamwork, project management, delegation, and more. It’s assumed that people already have these abilities, but this is not always true.
  • Invest in team development. Even if people possess the right skills individually, they may not know how to work together as a team.
  • Invest in preparing people for change. This includes getting people to look at change through a positive lens, and maintaining proper staffing on the development and support side post-delivery, allowing for quick iterations with real-time user feedback.
  • Invest in developing the right culture for the improvement journey. Invest in our people, educate them, and shape their behavior through rewards and recognition.
  • Invest in defining improvement and quantifying the opportunities. Three useful questions, answered is this sequence, help to produce a path to improvement.
    1. What are we trying to accomplish?
    2. How will we know that a change is an improvement?
    3. What changes can we make that will produce improvement?