Step-change improvement results from the synthesis of continuous improvement and technology enablement of the frontline worker who suggest and implement small-scale improvements.
This bottom-up, worker-first approach to process improvement can produce hundreds of small improvements in a distributed, non-sequential manner.
This bottom-up, people first approach transformed the software industry, enshrining it as agile development.
Why generic, traditional improvement fails boils down to these four factors:
- People involved in prototyping and validating the net-net benefits of a proposed change
- Processes and ways of collaborating at various phase of the project
- Choice of technology for enablement of a proposed change
- Lack of suitable content, notably explainer videos and infographics, use-case video snippets, and short, pithy interviews with affect stakeholders
Let’s explore how delivery models for improvement also contribute to failed step-change improvements.
Most process improvements arrive as deliverables from a consultant or consulting firm, bringing a huge, sometimes transparent, but never fully disclosed “make billable work” entailment.
This also comes with the tremendous overhead of a top-down, big-bang change, which creates lots of internal resistance, costs and delays … and often dies of inertia and dashed career paths.
Some process improvements arise from an internal working group or task force, imbuing the project with unearned status, political intrigue, and power grabs. These internal task forces require transformational executive leadership , or the initiate will fail. However, most of the transformational executives are “engaged elsewhere”.
At best, these internally generated improvements produce small incremental improvements, due in large part to the terror and uncertainty that larger scale improvements invoke within the task force and throughout affected stakeholder groups.
Most if not all the successful incremental improvements remain local and do not scale outside of their innovation labs or pilot studies.
Other meaningful and well-intended improvements die when they hit the “not in my backyard” or shop floor bias, calling attention to outsider status of the proposed change and insufficient in-group social capital to forge and maintain a consensus.