The American Society for Quality (ASQ) defines Continuous Improvement as follows: A specific focus on linear, incremental improvement within an existing process. Some practitioners also associate continuous improvement more closely with statistical process control.
It is this definition that causes me to more deeply examine, in the context of risk, compliance, digitization and business transformation, why using the Continuous Improvement model, organizations may be doing themselves a big disservice.
Take a small illustration . . . Say your job causes you to move to a country where cooking with lots of hot peppers is the norm. At first, the food burns your taste buds; but over time you adapt — you change in a way that allows you to deal with the new environment and your new circumstances. Of course, you won’t think of the change as an improvement, but rather a dramatic shift to a whole new way of cooking and eating.
This is but a small illustration of the need for a ‘transition period’ that allows the mind to shift from improving to adapting.
Note the two distinct points of differentiation – improvement occurs “within an existing process” allowing for cycles of hit or miss. On the other hand,‘adapting’ requires one to experience a transition that embeds the change and to ‘adapt’ to new circumstances and environments.
Some people will maintain that to adapt, is to improve. Maybe that could be a fair argument, BUT, to adapt, one most likely will not do it within an existing process. Thereby, hangs the difference.
Adaptability brings me to the subject of ‘business agility’. Being agile in business is a key motivator to create momentum for change and adaptability. We have known ‘agile’ in IT development for many years, but business is slowly starting to recognize that the traditional management practices and perspectives don’t work anymore, or as well, in the rapidly changing complex world. Traditional approaches create resistance against adaptation and change.
Three key risks of not continually adapting include:
The business winners of today and tomorrow are already adjusting their management practices. They see their people thinking and acting collectively and driving continual adaptations and changes. In an agile organization, people are passionate and eager to perform, develop and grow. They collectively take action in a coherent way, across the entire organization.
The following will drive the momentum toward continual adaptability and business agility. We suggest they be embedded into the guiding principles for decision making, communication, and execution:
Once an organization has achieved momentum for continual adaptability, their perspectives will change. A change in management practices is essential and embedding the new principles into the mindset of everyone and the organization’s DNA is inevitable. The momentum for continual change and adaptation becomes less dependent upon individual business leaders and will survive changes in leadership teams, technology and processes.
Uvidi Consulting has been promoting and supporting ‘Continual Adaptability’ for more than a decade. We have developed tools and an approach that allows organizations to plan their transitions toward greater business agility, all the while better managing the uncertainties of emerging risk.
We welcome your questions, inquiries and comments.
To schedule a complementary consultation on Continual Adaptability for your organization reach us via: ContactUs@Uvidi.ca