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What's Missing in Improvement Initiatives

Feb. 15, 2011
Escape the improvement trap

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.
  • See Also:
    Average Isn't Good Enough
    IW's Blueprint for Manufacturing Success
    It Starts at the Top
    Fighting the War for Talent
    Creating High-Value Supply Chains

    About the Author

    Jill Jusko

    Bio: Jill Jusko is executive editor for IndustryWeek. She has been writing about manufacturing operations leadership for more than 20 years. Her coverage spotlights companies that are in pursuit of world-class results in quality, productivity, cost and other benchmarks by implementing the latest continuous improvement and lean/Six-Sigma strategies. Jill also coordinates IndustryWeek’s Best Plants Awards Program, which annually salutes the leading manufacturing facilities in North America.

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