Continuous improvement


Who decided in their wisdom that Continuous Improvement is to be limited to a problem?   Why can’t someone just have a great idea?

I was in session the other day when some delegates were being trained on this subject of Continuous Improvement.  I was meant to be a bystander during the training, there to observe the current ‘Operating System” being deployed.  I was there in our software capacity with strict instructions to leave the incumbent experts alone with their programme for Lean.   Trouble is, I’m getting long in the tooth and when I see someone delivering a slanted view on such an important subject, I lose sight of my place in the order of things.  My problem was on the very first slide.  If it had been on Slide 34 of 48 it might not have been so awkward.  The PowerPoint slide read as follows:

geneo-dmaic-problem solving

Here is my problem.  Who decided in their wisdom that Continuous Improvement is to be limited to a problem?   Why can’t someone just have a great idea?   Necessity is the Mother of Invention we say, but no one said that it had to have a root cause and present itself as a problem for us to solve.  Does a suggestion scheme have a little box to tick declaring what exactly is the root cause that you want to eliminate?  NO!  It does not.  So why do we have to box ourselves into an unnecessary and potentially fruitless corner with offering DMAIC (a problem solving methodology) as a clumsy panacea to our Improvement problems?   Not only have we closed the pathway for people to come up with inventions, we have also lengthened the time it will take to put the ‘solution’ into action.   For me, Continuous Improvement looks like this:


Continuous Improvement follows two pathways:  solve a problem  or  have a great idea with equal weight being given to each pathway.

DMAIC by the very nature of its make-up requires you to define the problem.  That is the purpose of the D.  I say ‘NO’ to DMAIC, unless we are specifically talking about problems and, only if for, some reason, PDCA does not appear in your organisation’s working vernacular.

Let’s just say that my five minutes of interjection on the training course caused a rumpus.  I was led away by the thought police and had to leave the poor delegates to their lot.   A Call to Arms, people:  Free Continuous Improvement from the tyranny of this terrible, singular path! Make time for your people to sit around a table and dream up some crazy ideas.  You never know, they might just surprise you.

Download our A3 Report on CI strips or contact us.   Mark Radley

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