Continuously looking for ways to improve processes and outcomes
What is it?
Continuous improvement is an approach to work in which the manager continually strives to improve processes and outcomes. Managers need to be vigilant to reduce inefficiency and increase productivity, both in terms of quantity and quality.
Why is it important?
There’s an old saying that if you take a lunch, someone will eat yours. Now that maybe a bit drastic and it’s certainly important to have a good balance in our worklives in order to be sustainable, but it’s important to keep looking to improve and innovate. Customers can be fickle and need to be constantly won over and impressed with superior service, value, and quality. Whether your customers are internal or external, you want them to be thrilled with your product or service.
Use Objective Metrics
Managers need to be metric driven. In most cases, the numbers don’t lie (assuming you’re looking at the right numbers). Each important task or project needs objective criteria to measure both progress and outcomes. Without concrete metrics that everyone is aware of and committed to, it can be difficult to hold people accountable to high performance standards.
Conduct After-Action Reviews
This may be the single most important practice for continuous improvement. Workgroups and teams should have regular after action reviews. After every major milestone of a project you should ask: “What are we doing well?”, “What are we not doing well?”, and “How can we improve?” The answers to those questions will provide concrete strategies to improve the functioning of the group or team.
It is human nature to resist change. We like things to stay the same. That way they are predictable and manageable … even if they are frustrating and ineffective. In contrast, managers need to be change agents. The most effective managers continually ask themselves and their teams how things can be improved. They rarely settle for good enough and constantly push for better performance which requires the willingness to change. Although others might be willing to settle for complacency and the status quo, the best managers foster a culture of ongoing change and process improvement.