Have you ever led a Continuous Improvement transformation (CI), achieved considerable early success only to see it go off track and fail? If not then you haven’t lived!
From my experience there are 4 categories of causes:
- The intervention team lost sight of its purpose and therefore shifted its posture
- The intervention team failed to morph as the organisation developed its CI abilities
- Executive interest was lost or lost the executive.
- The sustaining systems of the organisation were not treated to effectively support the CI transformation.
In this article I will be dealing with the intervention team losing sight of its purpose.
If the organisation is shooting for true CI then the intervention team’s purpose is likely to be something like:
“To be the catalyst, coach and mentor to initiate and embed CI in the organisation so that it delivers the required business value in a self-sustaining way”
After intervening in about 3 locations the team will see a few patterns emerging and an opportunity to make changes to the approach. This, of course, should be encouraged. We should all be seeking to find better ways. The problem starts when those changes are inconsistent with the purpose of the intervention (purpose drift).
By way of example. The training modules for a particular program were designed to be a deep discovery and learning experience. This enabled participants to gain a better appreciation and integration of the learning into their daily work practices. This was consistent with the purpose and the learning posture of that intervention. It was very successful.
After the 3 cycles it was decided to simplify the approach to save time and codify the training into detailed manuals so that a general trainer could recite the material. This saved time and cost of implementation (or so they thought). What occurred here was a drift in purpose away from being a catalyst to embed an improvement system to being an efficient delivery of information. A significant part of the learning posture was lost and the meaning of that training diminished. The recovery work to achieve a successful implementation far exceeded any perceived time and cost saving in the training.
Things to consider to prevent Purpose Drift:
- Will the change being considered further the purpose or compromise it?
- Be alert to attempts to be more efficient in delivery at the expense of effectiveness of take up.
- Each “client” assignment must start where the client is at not where the intervention team has evolved to.
- Don’t get too smart. What you have learnt may be perceived as arrogant and damage the long term goal.
- Avoid the complacency of success. You should remain as alert and attentive in your next assignment as the first. You owe it to your new client team.
In summary, protect your purpose and hold your learning posture. To do otherwise will result in an intervention team that is mechanistic rather than a catalyst for transformation.