This is a guest post by Bill Flury
A good idea
We were discussing how we could get started with the business of process improvement. Somebody said:
“Hey! I’ve got a great idea! The Quality folks are always telling us that we should lookout for better ways to do things. Let’s hold a series of best practice workshops and see what ideas people bring us. “
We agreed that we should test the idea by each of us calling some key people in our respective centers and getting their reactions.
What a surprise we got!
Reaction 1: “We don’t have any best practices.”
I’m not sure we even have anything that you could call a practice. Every job is different. Every customer is different. We just do what we think is best for each case.
Reaction 2: “How would you compare practices?”
We don’t really keep track from one project to the next on what we do. We rely on the memory of our key people. It’s all in their heads and you can’t compare what you can’t see.
Reaction 3: “Who are the best practices supposed to be best for?”
Who would we want to please with our best practices?
- The customer
- Our staff
- The support groups
And how would we want to please them, are they worried about cost, schedule, performance or all three? For whom and how must we be best? That’s a tough question.
Reaction 4: “How could you convince everyone that one version of a practice is best?”
If we picked one practice and called it the best, how would we ever be able to convince someone that that way is better than their way? Lots of people come up with ideas but nobody ever comes forward with any convincing data – just opinions.
A better idea
We decided that it would be premature to try to hold the proposed workshops. We had to attack the feedback first. So here’s what we did:
“We don’t have any best practices.”
“How would you compare practices?”
We asked everyone to show us their practices so we could see if they were the same or different. (There was a lot more commonality than they expected.)
We encouraged them to agree on the common items and use them in the same way on all projects.
We also started to work with out how they could track variations in the outcomes.
“Who are the best practices supposed to be best for?”
Instead of Best, we started thinking about the concept of Better. We looked for changes that might yield any improvements in cost, schedule or performance or might be better for the customer, the staff or associated organizations. We helped them test proposed changes and check the outcomes.
“How could you convince everyone that one version of a practice is best?”
Once the practices were consistently followed and the outcomes tallied, we presented convincing data on how different ways of performing the practices affected performance.
The best idea
As we started our hunt for best practices we realized that they don’t exist, there is always something that can be done better. So now we hold the workshops regularly. Our hope is that we can get on the path outlined in the old poem:
Good, Better, Best
Never Let it Rest
‘Til the Good is Better
And the Better, Best
Flying ducks for sale by Etsy
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