Encourage Improvement Action by Everyone

Centralizing decision making is not an effective way to manage organizations. Organizations need to encourage improvement by everybody in the organization. We need to create a system where that is encouraged and supported.

However, there can be problems with just making improvements individually. We tend to overreact to variation. Therefore we tend to tamper with systems which actually increases variation and reduces performance. Also there can be effects on other parts of the system due to a change that are not obvious at the point of change. We need to remove undue bureaucracy. However, it is good to remember that, such efforts are much more effective and safe when supported by a good system (standardization, PDSA, visibility, communication, lean thinking, well trained workforce…).

Without an understanding of systems and interactions sometimes changes are made without an understanding of the consequences those changes. The beer game is a good example of one way this can cause problems (people don’t always understand all the consequences of their actions). To be clear I agree with setting up systems that allow people to make improvements in the workplace. Just be cautious to avoid tampering.

The way to be cautious is not to prevent people from trying to improve but to be sure everyone has an understanding of system thinking, variation… With an understanding of the systems, and interactions, people can make the distinction between simple changes that are very unlikely to have an undesirable affect later and other types of changes. I believe the goal is to trust them to make the right decisions on what can just be done and what should be piloted (pdsa) or discussed more thoroughly first.

Take the effort to help people see the systemic effects of change and understand variation. They will then make more effective simple changes and be able to determine when systemic problems require a more thorough process improvement process be used to improve the system.

Inspired by Permission to Change

Related: Evidence-based ManagementChange is not ImprovementHow to ImproveLearning, Systems and Improvement

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