I am and have been a firm believer in continuous improvement practices. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of packaged models of continuous improvement, such as Six Sigma, Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, Total Quality Management, etc. All are good and all are premised on the sound theory that getting better is a process, not an accidental state.
Having worked in a number of organizations, both small and large, I have learned that continuous improvement ONLY becomes a reality if it is embedded into the daily fabric of the work. It must be ingrained in the DNA of each employee, each division, each department. Otherwise it just becomes one more cutesy poster on the wall or way to get a bonus at the end of the year.
I recently heard a speech on the topic of continuous improvement in which the speaker noted a powerful question that one of his bosses would pose both at formal and informal meetings – “Have we been all we can be?”
Wow! Does that not capture the whole idea of continuous improvement in seven words? It’s a yes/no question, to be sure. Few, I imagine, can authentically reflect on that question and reply with a “yes.” The clear implication is that no matter how good we are, how well we did, how effective we are, there’s still opportunity to get better.
And, why wouldn’t we?