Driving Improvement

The process of Driving Improvement happens at a number of different levels (both organisationally and conceptually) and in a number of different ways - strategic/or operational; maturity/or issue centric; performance/or potential focused; and free-form/or discipline based. Everything about your organisation can be improved, including the process of improvement itself. But, while the scope of improvement is broad, and the options appear involved and complex, the basic principles which underpin how improvement takes place are relatively simple and straightforward - and necessarily universal. And so, mastering a few tools provides us with tremendouls leverage over our performance (in all respects. The Driving Improvement panel on the right reflects some of these.

The reduction of improvement to a few simple tools however is in no way intended to underplay its importance. On the contrary, the focus of everything in the big-picture (and indeed on this website) is about driving improvement; practically everything else you have seen here has been about structuring, organising, and readying things so that improvement can be driven more effectively. Improvement concerns everything, and, in its widest sense, it is the only measure of management.

Success in management, then, is both defined by, and depends on, getting a good comprehensive, systematic grip of improvement - a grip which encompasses performance, people, potential, processes, relationships...; which embraces both system and creativity; which commits and controls, inspires and integrates; which is both agile and sustained; and which (most importantly) is demonstrably better than the competition. Everything else in the big-picture is simply (but all-importantly) context, framework, a precursor, a way to get this panel 'right' - without improvement, it all means nothing!

Different aspects of improvement can be explored in the Predict and Perfect sections of the website, which also include (at the bottom of the right hand columns) links to a number of principles to support this, and some tools to help make it happen.

Some of these tools are reflected in the Driving Improvement panel and are described in more detail below.

Maturity Models consist of different scales with descriptions of progress levels along each. The idea is that, by considering the descriptions, an organisation can assess its current level of 'maturity', decide on its desired level, and gain insight (based on the descriptions) of what it needs to put in placeto get there. They are very useful tools in stimulating group debate and consensus, and in evaluating progress.The one illustrated on the panel (often referred to as the cultural spectrum) looks at improvement in the context of how systematically you are managing improvement. It consists of six columns (reflecting each of the 6 Ps) with 5 levels described in each.

A point that is sadly often overlooked is that improvement needs to be funded, and also harvested. Improvement consumes resources (time, energy, money, brain-power) and although it also generates those same resources, there is a time-lag that needs to be accounted for. The Improvement Strategy is a tool which helps to ensure that improvement is neither short-changed (a sadly all too prevalent and damaging behaviour) nor neglected in the harvest (an equally prevalent and wasteful oversight). The concepts are further explored in a discussion paper (103 KB).

Only slightly less neglected than the Improvement Strategy is Change Management. The diagram on the panel shows two performance curves over time - the green 'ideal' curve reflects how performance should change through improvement, while the red line reflects a far more common state of affairs which arises from weakness in managing concerns, addressing issues, and fully engaging the workforce. The factors behind this are further explained in a slide set (352 KB), which is helpful in thinking through the management of change, and includes a simple checklist.

Probably the most powerful tools in driving improvement come under the title of Systematic Problem Solving. Many consultancies have developed their own approaches to this (and charge hansomely for their use). Out of fifteen years of experience, we hve pulled the best approaches into a powerful tool which we call PROBLEM (an acronym of the seven steps) - which is made freely availale to all who have a use for it within their own organisation. Resources (guides, training materials, simulation) to support this can be found here.

Pages 356-372 of Managing by Design can be found in Chapter 22 which can be read as a pdf file (133 KB) by clicking the link above. Pages 482-492 concerns the use of QFD for prioritising improvement and how it links in to other well known approaches, and can be found in Appendix 5 and Appendix 6. (Which can be downloaded by clicking the relevant link).

Blank templates of this panel can be found in the Big Picture Storyboard file - these can be used to capture your own experiences and progress in this area (by annotating them either in PowerPoint, or as a printed panel), and then to physically cut and paste them onto the Big Picture to create your own storyboard of implementing systematic management in your organisation.

To explore another secion of the big picture, please click on the relevant area of the image below:

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