November  2019     Edition 146
Process Improvement should include Thinking Improvement

Most organizations strive to improve their processes

; making them easier to follow, streamlined for less steps, striving for higher accuracy, quality and efficiencies.    Standards also contribute to quality and productivity by defining specific protocols, metrics, and specifications. 

Over the last 50+ years

, standards and processes, such as TQM, Six Sigma, Lean, Agile, (the list is very long), have provided the means for massive improvement in quality and productivity.    Simply put, if you follow the process and use the standards, a predictable, repeatable result will occur, and with little to no error.

One reason why standards and processes are so successful

is that they remove the human frailty.   No need to think that much, because all you have to do is follow the steps, and short of mechanical or occasional human error, produces the same result.  


, when something “new” arrives … a new problem, and unforeseen interaction, a component that isn’t up to spec, a new customer expectation, even a new generation of communication (e.g. social media), existing processes and standards can’t keep up.  In addition, the rate of change continues to increase, and the desire for individual, customized, personal solutions have evolved.  “One off” solutions, customization, configuration, are increasingly in demand.   Complexity and inter-dependencies between people, products and services continue to evolve.   

While continued advancements in new standards and technologies are both warranted and beneficial, we need to add something back into the mix. 

We need to put thinking back into the equation

… but not just business as usual thinking, but Critical Thinking, including the variations of its application with Outside-the-box, Design, Analytical, Scientific, Concrete, Abstract, Divergent, Convergent, and Associative thinking, to name a few.

We need to equip our people

with Thinking tools so they can look beyond the everyday, recognize a new scenario and figure out how to manage it.   

For those who wish to expand your career

and take on more responsibilities, become a stronger leader, then know that there is no “Process” and “Standard” to follow.  While there are certainly basic steps including knowledge, leadership learning, etc., those who are successful are those who have become critical thinkers. 

The Takeaway
:   The formula is simple;

Standards + Processes + Thinking

are key elements of continued success in improving quality, productivity, communication, responsiveness, competitiveness, creativity, and all the elements of a business.   The next time you’re involved in an effort to “improve” things, raise your hand and ask, “What about our thinking?”. 

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