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Continuous Improvement Should Be Continuous

We all sat in the conference room staring at one another.  The room was silent as everyone waiting for someone else to speak up first.  We had a major problem, and we were all worried about how it would impact the company.

The company I worked for had big problems with one of its products – they were breaking much sooner than anticipated and customers weren’t happy.  Reports were coming in from around the world and it didn’t look pretty.

As we discussed the problem and what we were going to do about it, I made the statement that as a company, we needed to adopt a mindset of continuous improvement.

The engineering director took great offense to me saying this, and responded with, “We build quality into every product that we make!”

My response to him was this – “How can we say we are proactively building quality into everything when we only talk about quality when there’s a problem?”

The room sat silent.  There was no response, and the engineering director quickly changed topics and went on discussing how to quickly test a new solution.

It was an epiphany for me at that moment at that company.  We didn’t talk about quality 11 months out of the year.  We only talked about quality when something big was broken.

How can a company claim they are building quality into their products, or that they have a culture of continuous improvement, if they aren’t proactively doing quality exercises regularly?

To build a mindset of continuous improvement, the methods and tools used to improve efficiency, increase productivity, and boost effectiveness must be proactively discussed and used on a regular basis, not just when there is a quality crisis.

It’s similar to fitness.  If you want to be healthy, you have to make a proactive, consistent effort over time to be and stay healthy.

Imagine you have a heart attack.  Upon leaving the hospital, you go to the gym for 8 hours a day for 3 weeks and then stop going.  You don’t go back to the gym until your next heart attack.

Nobody would agree that’s a good way to stay healthy!  Likewise, continuous improvement cannot be an intense activity that you do for a few days or weeks when you have a quality crisis and then something you ignore the rest of the year.

Build quality and improvement into your everyday culture and your efficiency, productivity, and effectiveness will all benefit as the quality of your products and services rise!

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