Simple Continuous Improvement, or Simple C.I., is a technique which I developed and now teach as a simple, repeatable process for solving problems within an organization.
Here is my story on how the concept was developed:
While working as a Continuous Improvement and Process Specialist for a leading Telecommunications company, I made several observations of teams that were trying to resolve issues:
- Teams were not aligned on a problem statement.
- Problem statements that did exist were poorly written and focused on:
- Too wide a scope
- Without a strong problem statement to align to, the resulting remediation:
- Failed to receive buy-in from key stakeholders.
- Was one-sided and dictated from a single source.
- Focused on short-term cleanup rather than discovery of underlying causes.
- Achieved short lived resolutions, if any.
- Failed to deliver “Win-Win” scenarios for the stakeholders.
In short, I observed that while many leaders had a clear understanding of Deming’s “Plan/Do/Check/Act” cycle for issue resolution, without a strong understanding and alignment of stakeholders to a common problem statement and desired state, the PDCA cycle had a relatively low success rate.
So, I set to work helping my team to find solutions to problems that impacted its ability to feel valued and to deliver value in work interactions. I began by encouraging my team to call me directly when they encountered a problem. Through practice, I was able to take the stories people told about their issues and consistently break them down into the following:
- The Problem Statement
- One or two sentences
- Without blame
- The Desired State
- A mental picture of their world if we made the problem go away.
- The Pain
- Why we should make the problem go away.
- The Stakeholders
- Who cares about this issue?
In trying to divide their stories, I made some key discoveries:
- The narrative of the stories is almost always messy.
- It takes practice to be able to separate the story into the first three categories.
- After repeating the steps several times, people were able to copy and repeat the format.
In short, I discovered that my methodology could be taught and that most of my team could learn to run all but the most complicated continuous improvement initiatives on their own.
When I left my career in Telecommunications to found Pyxis Great Lakes, I knew I had something unique that I could teach to teams.
Simple C.I. is now the cornerstone of the two-day Agile for Operations course and can also be provided as a one-day workshop to teams who want to “Practice/Practice/Practice” the techniques.
I believe that we subconsciously apply Lean and Agile Methodologies every day of our lives and I can only imagine where we could go if we learned to apply these principles intentionally. I believe in improvement for everyone. I want to be the “Everyday Agilist”!