Committed to Continuous Improvement?

We’d all like to think that we’re committed to continuous improvement. Whether it’s at work or at home or in everyday life, we want to believe that we are doing things a bit better all of the time.

But is this the reality? How often do we, in fact, fall back on familiar habits and ways of doing things without really thinking about it? Do we, as a matter of routine, question what we are doing and how we are doing it? How can we when so much of what we do (well over 90%) every day is done sub consciously?

The drive for continuous improvement may not be as natural or as commonplace as we like to imagine. Aristotle wrote that, ‘we are what we repeatedly do.’

And in a more contemporary context STOPThink! Lead, Mick Reeves,  reminds us that: ‘if you repeat a task twenty one times it becomes habit. If these are good habits fantastic, they will serve you well! However if they are bad habits, watch out you won’t even be aware of them! As habits are difficult to spot in yourself you are reliant on others bringing them to your attention! They are also very difficult to ‘break’ or change.

Improvement starts with yourself! To positively influence behaviour you have to first understand yourself, be prepared to challenge and to be challenged. By seeking to improve our understanding and our performance we put ourselves on an upwards track, striving to always get better at whatever we do.

Feedback and Continuous Improvement

The acid test when it comes to continuous improvement is how individuals and organisations give and receive feedback.

Useful customer feedback goes beyond the straightforward ‘did we deliver what we said we would,’ to more demanding questions about what we are like to work with as an organisation and as a team of people. The culture has to be one of openness where customers can be totally frank about what they liked, what they didn’t and what we could do better.

Without this we are observing our world with one eye closed. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we are doing a good job but it’s how it looks to our customers that matters. Without asking that question in ways that encourage our customers to be completely frank we may well be sitting still while our competitors are moving ahead.

If we’re not seen to be committed to continuous improvement, why should a customer consider us for a re-bid or additional work?

Feedback is a two-way process. We have to be able to give it constructively and we have to seek it and welcome it. This is the philosophy that underpins our annual Performance Development Plans. Concerns or criticism can then be addressed, weaknesses can be turned into strengths.

Genuine well structured feedback – given or received in a timely way can be an extremely powerful aid to improvement – it requires openess, honesty, trust and sometimes courage.  Without it we cannot learn from mistakes or improve our delivery next time.  It can help steer us towards achieving exactly what our customers are seeking, making us a trusted, reliable and preferred partner.