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Improving is the easy part.

This claim is as much preposterous as it is true. In comparison, transforming a process to an improved state is much easier than maintaining this improvement, let alone pushing it to an even better state. Why is this, though?

It’s because in most cases improvement in large organizations means fulfilling a project – it has a hard deadline, a budget, and is judged based on a one-time performance review. This mindset, along with the tools used during the improvement project, are not suitable for continuous improvement. In fact, they are not even suitable for one-time improvement, because oftentimes the lack of post-work in projects and the human factor in organizations mean that soon after it’s conclusion, any improvement achieved will slow down and revert to somewhere close to the original situation.

The right tools are here, just change the mindset

With all the latest developments in technology and its entry into enterprise-grade software, the tools (both on an executional and on an analytical layer) are very much present to support self-service continuous improvement, and turn this from a one-time or periodical projects to a daily practice.
So what is left is a change in attitude. New methodologies like Lean and Six Sigma, combined with the new technology products available, are already creating success stories of continuous process improvement. And if you are looking for examples, look no further than Apple, Ikea and Nike.

There are prerequisites

Aside from tool-based self-service technologies and a progressive mindset, there are a few specific functionalities that need to be present in order to enable continuous improvement. They are:

  • Measure-first approach to improvement: The only way to make informed decisions about where and how to improve a process is to begin with a baseline understanding of what needs to be done.
  • Work with S.M.A.R.T. measurement criteria: The KPIs used to measure process performance need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.
  • Collaborate across functions to drive effective and long-lasting change: ensure a smooth delivery of strategy to execution by bringing together stakeholders from each level of the organizational hierarchy.

Once all these things are present, there is literally no obstacles on the road to making lasting process improvements. All you need to do is keep raising the bar and achieving new levels of operational excellence.