Where Continuous Improvement Ends and Flawless Execution Begins

Afterburner Team Written by:
Afterburner Team

The idea of continuous process improvement is one that has made the rounds in organizations of all sizes and types since before the mid-twentieth century, bringing processes like Six Sigma, Lean and ISO 9001 with it. These processes have brought success to many of those organizations, but still others have experienced failed roll-outs and lack of ROI. Whether it’s increased training in these methodologies or marrying them to create the ultimate hybrid process, corporations around the world have struggled to make their operations and cultures fit these initiatives. This level of change is rarely met with open arms, and worse, often isn’t necessary.

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Obviously, you can’t eliminate these processes and why would you? They have, after all, proven to bring operational excellence to many industries. But today’s continuous improvement processes are square pegs in search of a round hole. So what is the alternative? A simple process that fills the gaps where modern CI methodologies don’t fit.

And that is where Flawless Execution begins…

Continuous Process Improvement vs. Culture Improvement

This is where you reach the crosshairs of process improvement and culture improvement. Operational excellence is conceived at the top and achieved at the front lines, in the day-to-day execution of strategic direction. But the challenge with common CI processes is how advanced they are–some would go so far as to deem them complicated. While not always the case, there are many projects and functions that are actually hindered by these processes. Implementation of a CI initiative requires buy-in, something that is unlikely to happen when your teams feel that they are required to use a process that works against them.

And while improvements, however small, should not be cast aside, many CI applications simply fail to move the needle of the organization in the right direction or register on the ROI index. When your day-to-day operations are a convoluted mix of large projects with long timelines, smaller, tactical missions with short timelines, and any number of variations in between, you must have an approach to organizational improvement that can meet any need at any level.

Effects-Based Thinking & Strategic Innovation

The stranglehold total quality management systems can have on innovation is not a new concern. As very tactical improvement processes, each achieves its goal of eliminating variances in the day-to-day operations. But the inability to apply Lean, Six Sigma and comparable processes to high-level strategy development leaves a critical area unaddressed. At what level is the tactical implementation of CI initiatives strategically planned and aligned to organizational goals? When effects-based thinking doesn’t drive your organizational initiatives, the return on your investment is never realized and you’re left wondering what went wrong.

Flawless Execution empowers teams to examine the intended effects of mission objectives in order to accurately plan and execute missions. Doing so can help to decrease the scope of projects and even eliminate unnecessary projects altogether. We operate in an increasingly complex world, and as such, the variances we seek to eliminate will only be replaced by new, unforeseen variances. As one innovation thought leader points out, it’s in these variances that many corporations find their innovation, their key to the future. Eliminating variances must be strategic and intentional or you risk eliminating the opportunities that complex environments produce. With an organization-wide process like Flawless Execution, companies can ensure that a commonly shared mental model acts as a fail-safe or checks-and-balance system to guarantee the right missions are being executed.

Organizational Learning

With Flawless Execution, the iterative, continuous improvement aspect originates with the STEALTH Debrief, a nameless, rankless post-mortem or retrospective that allows for teams to capture lessons learned for dissemination throughout the company. This process is not found in Lean or Six Sigma and robs you of the invaluable opportunity to accelerate organization-wide learning from a single mission. In fact, a corporation’s ability to learn has proven to be one of the most significant differentiators between top performers and their competitors in new product revenue.

There is no question of whether continuous process improvement is necessary–we absolutely know that it is. We simply believe that there is a need for a shared mental model that helps to fill in the gaps. What do you think? How do you address these and other areas where your CI initiatives might not address challenges? With Flawless Execution, of course.

Learn how to drive continuous process improvement and see tangible ROI with Afterburner Programs.

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