For Continuous Improvement, Mind the Connections Too

My bi-weekly link collection, including: building your purpose, managing stress, and tactical vs. adaptive performance

Finding Improvement in the Margins

With continuous improvement, we look everywhere for processes that lead to waste and inefficiency.  While we most often focus on core processes, connections between core processes must be attended to as well.  For example, the process for entering an order may be very efficient as may be the process for filling an order.  Now, consider the connection between receiving an order and fulfilling the order.  Are the interconnections flowing well?  How do the people who are fulfilling the order find out about the order?  Are people re-entering information?  Are orders missed sometimes because people are too busy? Learn more about how to find opportunities to improve inter-process connections.

Tactical vs Adaptive Performance

Many companies are good at doing what they say they are going to do, in the way they say they are going to do it.  This is called tactical performance. However, in a study of assembly line performance, Ethan Bernstein found that requiring employees to always do things exactly as designed can actually work against improvements in performance.  Building a culture where front line employees are encouraged to adhere to best practices and also find better ways to work - which is called adaptive performance - improves both overall performance and overall employee satisfaction. When employees have clear work procedures and the freedom to seek improvements they become more dedicated to their roles, more invested in their job, and better performing overall!

94% Belongs to the System

Recently, I participated in a lively discussion that focused on exploring the cause of human error.  As we discussed different scenarios, my fellow attendees posited that perhaps errors were caused by unclear instructions, insufficient training, management pressure to expedite something which resulted in important steps being skipped, or a culture that did not allow workers to sound the alarm when something was not right. We were clearly centered on how the system and circumstances surrounding a mistake contribute to that mistake. The group instinctively saw that a problem is rarely caused by the action by an individual person.  Our instincts were right. In fact, by some estimates, direct action by people accounts for only about 6% of the causes of issues.  Read about how to address the other 94% in this article.

How do you Find your Purpose?  You Build It!

We often think in terms of the Hollywood version of purpose in which the universe reveals its grand plans to the hero or heroine.  We know that this rarely happens in real life.  Instead, we must build our own grand plan or higher purpose, remembering that purpose is multi-faceted and ever changing. The challenge is to endow everything we do with purpose, to allow for the multiple sources of meaning that will naturally develop in our lives, and to be comfortable with those changing over time. Read more about finding purpose over a lifetime.

Managing Work Stress

High-pressure jobs or jobs that just aren't the right match for you can create psychological stress that is severe enough to have undesirable physical effects, such as chronic headaches, nausea, or insomnia. Even more alarming, high work stress can even lead to serious health events like strokes. If you find yourself in that kind of job and are feeling those negative health effects, it is essential to take intentional steps to ease your body and mind.  Find out how to identify the source of your stress and learn key strategies that will help you manage it better. Remember, if none of these things seem to work, it may be time for a change.  Your life could depend on it.

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