ImprovementPrinciples

Type: Principles
Sources: {Dan Felicaino, The Gilbs, David Witt, Tim McMahon, Matthew Leitch, Heidi Grant Halvorson, my own thinking.}

Gist

I assembled this set of principles to guide me and others through the sometimes stormy times of change. To me, 'times of change' equals 'always'. If there's one common theme among all my different job positions and private challenges, it's the wish for improvement. Use these principles whenever you embark on a journey.

Summary of Principles

Principles and Notes

P0: See the Specification Preamble

P1: Know where to go (Direction)

Having a clear, quantified goal is great, but only being headed towards a direction isn't that bad.
Who are the main stakeholders? What are their key benefits? How will they measure their benefit?
Don't take a bite that is too big to swallow. You can always move on from where you are at.
The need for improvement is almost always linked to strategic or financial goals. Which ones?
Do you have management's commitment?
What do you need to avoid?

P2: Meet reality & fail (Learning)

Get practical fast. Planning and deciding is important, but doing is more important.
Go for results, not certifications. Don't ever think that merely following so called best practices takes you where YOU need to be.
Ask you CFO or CEO if she likes your results.
What are your teammates thinking? Do they want to improve?
Do you show your results to people outside of your team?
Making mistakes is not only OK, it's mandatory for learning. Remember you CAN ask for outside help.
Failure encourages initiative.
Use yesterday as your benchmark, not other people.

P3: Fail Fast (Feedback Frequency)

Ask you CFO or CEO if she likes your results, often.
Complete your steps in days and weeks, not months and quarters.
Moving faster means you can try more things. It also means you make more mistakes. And they lead to understanding.
Celebrate from time to time, looking back. Plan your next move after the hangover.

P4: Perfection is a way, not a place (Perspective)

You will never 'be there'. But you can get closer. And then, the goal slips sideways and you start over.
Know where you are and define where to go next.
A certificate does not mean you're 'there'. You might as well have deviated from course.
Measure and track to see what you have done so far.
Heard of PDCA as a means to uncover obstacles?
A bulky change bureaucracy is not a sign of achievement, it's waste.

P5: Change actions, not culture (Scope)

People prefer to be consistent over time. You want people to remember different actions instead of changing their actions.
Never say culture change, say behavior change.
People act more often when their plans require no further thought. So they need to be very specific and applicable in the specific situation.
Set a good example at the top.

Quotes

Sometimes numbers drive action better than words. - Tom Gilb

It's sufficient to move squareroot(number of people) in order to move the whole group. (attributed to Edwards Deming)

Related Pages

Where to go from here?

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