Continuously looking for ways to improve processes and outcomes
WHAT IS IT?
Continuous improvement is an approach to work in which a leader deliberately and regularly strives to improve processes and outcomes. Leaders need to vigilantly scan for areas of improvement in which they can reduce inefficiencies and increase productivity.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Teams, projects, and organizations generally go through multiple steps and stages in order to complete their goals. Each step forward is a opportunity for an adjustment – grand or subtle – that re-directs the team back onto the path toward goal achievement. Ultimately, you want those you serve to be thrilled with the final outcome. Continuously identifying challenges or burdens and adjusting as you go allows for continuous improvement in the work process and a better ultimate outcome. Furthermore, it is a proactive process that addresses challenges as they arise, rather than letting them impair the team effort.
- Use Objective Metrics
First, leaders need to be metric driven. Each important task or project needs to be paired with objective criteria that measures 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. These criteria also make evident the areas for potential improvement, and changes that need to happen as the project moves along.
- Conduct After-Action Reviews
Second, workgroups and teams should have regular, after-action reviews. After every major milestone of a project, the leader should ask: “What are we doing well?”, “What are we not doing well?”, and “How can we improve?” These questions establish you as a caring and engaged leader, and the answers to those questions will provide concrete strategies to improve the functioning of the group or team.
- Drive Change
Finally, accept and encourage change. It is human nature to resist change. We like things to stay the same. This way they are predictable and manageable … even if they are frustrating and ineffective. Leaders need to be change agents. This could look like changing up the team structure, the schedule, or the deliverables in order to continuously improve your work process. The most effective leaders rarely settle for good enough, and they constantly push for a better team environment, a deeper understanding, and an improved performance. Constant improvement requires the willingness to change. Although others might be willing to settle for complacence and the status quo, leaders need to pioneer the effort for ongoing change and process improvement.