Continuous improvement requires we make ourselves uncomfortable.
Getting better when times are good, continuous improvement when it’s not a matter of life and death and some economic thoughts on the real signals – we must continue to challenge
Not a day goes by that some talking head is sharing the latest issue. OPEC talks ended with no agreement. LinkedIn which was offered at pre-IPO of $45.00, jumped to $112 only to burst and be trading at just over $70…but how it this affecting us?
It’s easy to react to a problem. Open a customer complaint, assemble a team, ask “Why?” at least seven times, identify a “root” cause (s) and fix it. It’s more difficult to make improvements and fix issues when things are good. Ann Brenoff is a celebrity writer and TV personality; recently she listed some indicators of economic improvement:
• When the gym is empty around mid-day. gym memberships have been steady during the economic downturn (IBISWorld)
• When you can sell a house in 90-120 days. In a healthy economy, houses sit on the market for an average of about three to four months, the average number of days nationwide that a house sat listed for sale was 164.16. (Realtor.com)
• When People Order Appetizers and Desserts Again-Restaurant business overall has fallen over the past three years, according to the National Restaurant Association. Restaurant industry sales in 2011 are expected to reach a record $604 billion and sales are projected to improve 3.6% over 2010 sales. Every dollar spent in restaurants generates $2.05 in the overall economy.
• When We Stop Deferring the Deferred Maintenance-That means we’ve been living with our leaky faucets and have become do-it-yourself repairmen for our homes; Anything Research states the number of repair companies declined by more than 10,000 and existing companies reported 2010 revenue that was 17% lower.
• When Mortgage Lenders Actually Start Competing for Your Business-Until the money faucet gets turned back on, the economy will stagnate.
Getting better as times get better is the real challenge. We cannot permit our business to get stuck in the haze of good times and getting better, we are too busy. Companies need to find the same level of energy, challenge and commitment to meet, discuss and make improvements. Many cultures develop “work-a-rounds” when times are good, the old get it done-attitude. We delude ourselves. This hoodwinks and permits issues to fester.
Good is never good enough-Remember problems create opportunities and remember the impossible is a paradigm-change your mindset and change your performance! William Faulkner, Southern writer, one of the cornerstones of the American Gothic or “Grit Lit” wrote:
“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”
There is no finish line. There is no we made it! Continuous improvement requires we make ourselves uncomfortable. We must enjoy our success and know we can do better. Some of the world’s best manufacturers after decades of continuous improvement find waste and continue to improve. We cannot accept the idea that we must choose between today’s performance and tomorrow’s success.
Continuous improvement is about us, collectively holding each other accountable for increasing short term standards and building for tomorrow. We must remind ourselves that being comfortable is not the goal, success is never final.
All the runners in the race compete. Only one wins. Lets run to win.