It dawned on me today as I was thinking about another topic that there is a continuous thread throughout the majority of my discussions and that thread is a focus on continuous improvement. Then as I thought a little more I started to realize just how pervasive the continuous improvement practice or framework is across the vast majority of my activities, I realized that continuous improvement is a lifestyle or a way of life. The really interesting aspect of this epiphany is that its such a natural process or practice that I’m surprised that I didn’t think about this before. So its time to embrace and accept the fact and all its benefits.
I’ve talked so much lately about including a continuous improvement program, or framework in all of the initiatives I’ve been promoting; from the extended supply chain community to a skills training program that I fell a little like Mojo Nixon when he wrote the song ‘Elvis is Everywhere’! I’ve been feeling a little simple lately in my discussions; thinking that I’m sounding like a broken record always bringing up continuous improvement. Then I participated in a ISO / IEC 20000 certification training program and that’s when I realized that its not just me! Throughout this training essentially each industry framework we discussed included a continuous improvement program.
From Deming's lowly beginning quality framework of ‘Plan Do Check Act’ we've progressed to a virtually unlimited thesaurus of words and phrases that redefine the ‘Plan Do Check Act’ framework into the same basic concepts. The results of these ‘new’ frameworks is that whole new industries have been created to teach, provide certification programs and develop global standards, standards organizations, certification organizations that require regular re-certification
Now for my counter argument, or response to my cynical comments. This is not all one sided, there are benefits to the market that are realized from these efforts; an accepted method to measure and assure business partners and clients of the capabilities. The critical benefit realized is that these frameworks provide a means to ensure your customers that you have embraced a method to deliver standard and repeatable processes in an effective and efficient manner to your business clients. This can provide a differentiating factor to your services and reputation and a certification for one of the highly recognized standards can bring a level of confidence and prestige to your brand.
There is a virtual alphabet soup of standards and frameworks, each with its own language and acronyms that on the surface would seem like the conflict but in reality they all support each other. Here is what I see as the critical point to this; in order to succeed and prosper we have reached the point where you must practice repeatable processes that effectively and efficiently deliver services to your customers. The industry certifications provide a means to confirm that you have implemented a set of standards to manage and deliver your services. This is something like a college degree, when you think about it; the certification provides a level of comfort and confirmation in the beginning of your business relationship development with new customers, just like your college degree provides confirmation of your personal education. It assures your customers that you have a recognized and audited standards and procedures to deliver your services, which allows you to focus on how your services catalog can support your new customers more effectively and efficiently than your competition.
Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….
How many different industry frameworks can you list that deliver a continuous improvement program?