12 Feb, 2009 | by

I am searching for a word, maybe it’s a phrase, but it eludes me.  I don’t say that often, I take pride in my ability to communicate complex ideas creatively and succinctly.  Yet, I can’t find that perfect word to describe a state of being many of us in Process Management live in every day.  How do you describe being the best but also continuously improving, at the same time?

I recently had the opportunity to speak with a leader in Store Operations at a growing retail company.  He had some interesting observations on some things I take for granted.  His point was simple.  In an organization with a young talent pool and longevity measured in months, not years, labeling something as “best” sets a standard to achieve, not exceed.  After all, once you’re the best, don’t you put your feet up and relax?  This got me thinking, is the concept of “best practice” outdated?  Can you implement a “continuous improvement”?

Let’s take a step back and define these terms.  Keep in mind, language is important.  In many organizations, like the one mentioned above, words are taken at face value.    What is a best practice?  It is a method that has been identified as the best approach yielding the best results.  What about continuous improvement?  Again, just like the name implies, it is an approach, or more an organizational culture, to continuously improve. 

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15 Jan, 2009 | by

With advances in modern technology and the vast sums that organizations spend to implement cutting edge solutions, isn’t it odd that passing a folder from person to person in order to approve something is still so common?  You’ve seen it happen; perhaps you’ve even been part of those long conversations on the color of the folder to make it stand out on a desk.  Those discussions are usually preceded by an agreement made by all involved that the material will never sit idle but get immediate attention and route quickly.  In the end, it falls to some poor assistant to walk the halls in search of this folder, trying to track down approvers and keep things moving, usually taking much longer than any initial agreement.  To further complicate matters, fingers may begin to point at suspected sources of bottleneck.  Tensions mount and the innovative “folder method” had done more harm than good. 

Allow me to walk you through the evolution of a project to complete a form initiating the Personal Care Product Development Process and have it approved by associates in five functions across two business units in three states.  These hand-offs were necessary to pull critical knowledge from the organization determining the feasibility of a program before time and dollars were spent against it.  Bear in mind, any time spent completing and approving the form is time not spent on developing the product.  continue reading »