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:
    • Blame
    • Symptoms
    • Solutions
    • 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
    • Clear
  • 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”!

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Barbara Schultz

I believe that in order to be successful in the 21st century, one must not just manage and cope with change, one must aspire to be transformational. But how does one learn to “think outside of the box”? As a lifelong learner, I want to be a part of your transformation journey. My experience as a corporate change management and process specialist has allowed me to develop my Lean, Agile and Six Sigma skills into a varied toolbox to simplify change management and development. My training as a life coach and mental health facilitator provides a collaborative human touch to add heart and happiness to the experience. After all, Lean is really about finding the shortest distance between two points by leveraging the power of your people. I look forward to providing your team with the training and consulting services that will simplify and demystify your transformation journey.

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