To be effective at continuous improvement, we embrace these philosophies:
- Behavior first. Lasting improvement starts with behavior change, people start working in a new way and adjust as they learn how to apply the new approach in their context. One the new way of working has stabilized, infrastructure and procedures can be evolved to reflect and enhance it.
- Small incremental changes. In most cases large, and more importantly lasting, improvements emerge over time as a series of small improvements. Small changes are easier, less expensive, and less risky to implement. They’re also easier to communicate and apply elsewhere in your organization.
- Experiment, experiment, experiment. People must be allowed to experiment with new ways of working (WoW) to determine whether that new WoW works for them. These should be “safe to fail” experiments – if the new WoW doesn’t work out it won’t put your team or organization at risk, nor will people be punished for the failure.
- Mistakes teach. Failed experiments are important learnings about what doesn’t work in your current context. Ideally experiments are small, measurable changes that will “fail fast” if they don’t work out.
- Others teach. You can learn from the experiences of others. This is why guided continuous improvement (GCI) is critical, because it moves you from failing fast to “succeeding early” by making better decisions about new WoW to experiment with.
- Learning organization. A learning organization is an organization skilled at modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights. People within learning organizations create, acquire, and transfer knowledge as a fundamental aspect of their WoW.
- Share learnings widely. We want to facilitate the sharing of learnings between people, teams, and potentially organizations. The aim is to reduce the overall cost of improvement while increasing its velocity. Communication is key.
- Celebrate learnings. When teams invest in learning activities, particularly in experiments, it is important to recognize them for those learnings. This includes both failed experiments, where they’ve learned what doesn’t work in their context, as well as successful experiments. Celebrating learnings signals that it is safe and desirable to try and helps to share learnings with others.
- Measured improvement. There’s an old saying – What gets measured gets improved. There’s also an important axiom, what continues to be measured stays improved.