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Fundamental #19 – Continuously improve everything you do

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“Because we’ve always done it that way” is not a reason.  Constantly evaluate and re-evaluate every aspect of your job to find ways to improve.  Don’t be satisfied with the status quo.  Be engaged, thoughtful, and curious.  The most successful people and organizations are in a never-ending pursuit of improvement.  Demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning through both personal and professional development.

What needs to be in place for a company to achieve the highest levels of performance?  Based on Baldrige, one factor is organizational and personal learning.  Organizational learning includes both continuous improvement of existing approaches and significant change or innovation, leading to new goals, approaches, product and markets.  Personal learning consists of all members of the workforce, including the leaders, having opportunities to learn and practice new skills through education, training and other opportunities.  This fosters continuing growth and skill development.  Through learning not only are the products better but the responsiveness, agility, innovation and efficiency are also improved.  Thus learning is one of the cores of continuous improvement.  We can’t do the same things mindlessly because we’ve always done it that way.  That will keep us right where we are as our competition passes us by.  We must improve ourselves and our processes continuously and to do that there must be learning. 

Another factor is agility – a capacity for rapid change and for flexibility in operations (we like to call it “agilibility”).  Do you ever do something in your job that doesn’t quite make sense to do?   Is it a waste of time to do it?  If so, it needs to be improved.  We are in a competitive environment and if we cannot quickly turn new parts accurately, we will not keep the business in the long run.  How do we gain “agilibility” in the face of ever-shorter lead times and disruptive events?  We have to work smarter, we have to be aware of what we are doing and if it is truly value added.  We have to cross-train so more of us can help out where needed, and we have to be willing to do so.  We also must be open to the possibility that what we are doing no longer makes sense and change processes in a systematic way (process improvements, continual improvement projects, etc.) as needed for increased quality and efficiency.  And each of us needs to be empowered to do so.

So if you have a continuous improvement idea, share it with your supervisor or with me.  If you have an area where you would like to learn more share that with your supervisor or David.  We cannot improve an issue if we are not aware of the issue in the first place.  It starts with you.

– Amy Ammer