The only pre-requisite is a background and enthusiasm for some form of continuous improvement — after all, you need something to scale! One or more of the following will fit the bill:
- Agile (including a framework such as Scrum, Kanban, Personal Kanban, XP)
- Lean (a huge field) / Toyota Production System
- Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints
- Systems Thinking per Senge, Argyris, Meadows, etc.
A rough outline
- Learn the fundamentals (read the articles, ask questions, and/or arrange for training).
- Review your current situation:
- How’s staff morale?
- How much time is set aside for frequent and regular sense-making and improvement?
- How focussed are improvement efforts? Do they target the biggest bottlenecks?
- Make initial changes:
- Establish and sustain virtuous improvement cycles as widely as you can (e.g. by introducing contextually appropriate Lean and Agile practices);
- Strengthen sense-making (e.g. value stream mapping at all levels to identify bottlenecks), so that you can see problems and funnel surplus slack to where it’s most needed;
- Focus initial efforts on addressing the biggest bottleneck within your sphere of influence.
- Strengthen monitoring so that success can be measured and credit claimed. What does success look like? Improved productivity and quality flowing from well-targeted improvements, plus increased staff happiness.
- As successes mount, leverage your improved reputation to grow your influence by helping others, and teaching and advocating to spread the approach more widely.
- At senior levels, the positive change will extend to changing policy and structure.
- Keep it going: the game is to establish an effective and ongoing culture of continuous improvement — not just to overcome the latest crisis and settle into a new equilibrium.
Caveat: Please note that the above is deliberately not a complete and exhaustive framework. Rather it forms a high-level meta-framework suitable for skilled practitioners into which many other compatible techniques and approaches can be inserted, giving you the flexibility of choice to suit your particular context.
More detailed guidance will be available in future articles — with advice as to which sort of contexts will likely be a good fit. [Please be mindful that as you get more and more specific the range of application narrows.]
If all that sounds challenging, fair enough!
Executives: Please get in touch to arrange for support in the form of consulting, coaching, and/or training.
Coaches and consultants: Please get involved with our community.
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