Improvement initiatives may help an organization improve, but rarely do they provide a competitive advantage, says Michael Bremer, co-author with Brian McKibben of "Escape the Improvement Trap: Five Ingredients Missing in Most Improvement Recipes."
That's because the competition is likely implementing the same methodology. "From a competitive scene nothing much has changed because everybody goes about getting better in pretty much the same way," he says. The end result is that most companies are merely average, he says. And that's the trap. In their book the authors outline five characteristics they say the most effective companies display, yet which are either missing or significantly underused in most firms' improvement programs. The characteristics are:
- Customer value -- Companies need not only a clearly articulated value proposition to grow their desired business, but also the correct value proposition. That well-conceived value proposition should drive improvement initiatives.
People engagement -- The most effective organizations create environments that actively encourage all of their people to do their best work, develop critical thinking skills and collaboratively innovate.
- Key metrics -- A few, meaningful metrics are more important than many metrics that provide overwhelming amounts of data that are not useful.
- Process thinking -- Effective organizations manage and improve business performance along cross-functional process lines rather than by business function.
- Executive mindset -- Leaders must understand and manage the previous four ingredients, as well as how they are being used to make a difference in the marketplace.