#131 Process Improvement Approaches-Alternatives, Part 2

#131 Process Improvement Approaches-Alternatives, Part 2

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Carol’s topic for discussion: Examine part two of process improvement approaches and whether they work, change or stay the same over time or may better approaches.t. 


Recap from Which Approach to Strategy Part 1


A month ago, we started a conversation about the much lauded idea of process improvement. In succession, through history, each assumed new program starts with business, spreads to education and not-for-profits and eventually into families. Each time, the practices getting further away from a living systems practice and add on, mostly by human resource practices augmentations to try and ameliorate the problems the old one created. So, when feedback was adopted from how machines work, it came straight across as the process that shuts down the flow by triggering the governor on an overflow valve.


Process Improvement Programs as Living Systems


Now we switch to offering a way of working that is not machine based. In fact, we have a decades long track record that is not based on machine view of Process Improvement programs. They are based in Living Systems and how they work.

  • They take more effort than adopting a prototype model that is built around managing human behavior from outside and attempting to improve the flow of work. It is less based on improvement than are regeneration. What is the difference? 
  • Improvement, by definition, always starts with what already exists and how to improve on that. It is inherent in the name. Then you build a model you can scale.  
    • There are three living systems ideas to make things make operationable. Instead of linear, hierarchical, and static, let’s first look at nested systems as a principle of process improvement way of working. 
      • So instead of flowing through production where process improvement is usually designed to intersect. The work flows through different functional groups leads to the idea of work teams that must be based on production groups working together and the focus becomes the work teams and improving their process. We call it second line work. 
        • But how do you define as a living system. With a living system work flows through a  team that has a view of the system as a whole. With functional teams, the view is limited to their functional work. 
          • We call this nature of work design, Market Field Teams, when introducing this concept into a business. With the idea of market, you are including governance or regulation, different specific buyer/customer nodes each with their own needs and all that happens external to the business itself. 
          • Those team members take everything they do back to the functional team, that means that all is understood about the market and customers, moves out across and through the org easily into all other decision-making group, who understood the effects of team choices on stakeholders. 
              • Functional groups have someone from each market field team on their work group, so they are completely up to date but no disintermediation by supervisors, surveys, reports and translation from top down.  
              • MFTs are designed to link the overall strategy and innovation of each stakeholder with each functional work team. 
  • The second difference is to move away from the idea of fixed view of humans and into creating structures that ensure people learn. Not just skills for their functional work, but also growing how to deal with complex integrated thinking and interacting with other persons as part of contributing to and through the MFT and functioning groups. 
    • There is on-going forever development of mental capability to think as living systems think. Not nature but life itself. There is developmental infrastructure that means regular education, reflection using living systems frameworks; not fixed models. 
  • The third difference in moving from improving on what exists to making ‘promises beyond ableness’ (PBA)to stakeholders. Not how to just improve on current problems but to understand the stakeholder so well, in MFT teams or as individuals step up to this work. It is required of every person the business. They are always working from a Development plan led by a PBA on their own , with a group or a huge promise by an MFT to one stakeholder or group. 
    • For example: Seventh Generation made a promise to a  buyer node they called Chemically Sensitive to promote transparency of ingredients across the industry. They already had their own products labeled with ingredients even though this was not required by law. 
    • In our last episode we talked about using Essence to guide Strategy. Seventh Generation core value aspect of essence was transparency to enable Self-determination. 
      • You cannot choose if you don’t know! Essence was a primary driver of each decision in MFTs. Essence was part of the framework when considering what to promise a customer. It was not what they asked for so much. 


  • We have gone from linear, which all machine work improvement systems are, as well as pursuing efficiency rather than effectiveness and innovation, to nested systems. 
  • And from skill training to the development of human beings. 
  • And finally, from process improvement within a team or shared functional teams to each individual being involved in ongoing personal, professional and business development. This meant that the individuals on these teams made promises to particular buyers with the full support of a market field team and business leadership. They did this knowing they could work in a developmental infrastructure which evolved the level of complexity over time on the same promise to form major changes. 
  • And finally they knew they would be in a Developmental process as long as they were in the company. 
  • So, we no longer look for functional process improvement which isolated people from markets by intermediate info, like market research or surveys, which fragments their work from real consumer and distributor of offerings. And it does not leave people as more able beings beyond function. Developmental processes move into shifts in being and will and elevated motivation. 
  • Looking back at our example of Seventh Generation – we covered our three measures pretty well. 
    • First, Financial Effectiveness. Jeffrey Hollender reported in Harvard Business Review that when he took this process on inside Seventh Generation,  revenues grew by over 35-65% over each of the next five years—and that was inside a retail business which is unheard of. 
    • Second – Internalized Global Imperatives. Seventh Generation has led the integration of global imperatives for over a decade, making it part of strategy, team development and market relationships. 
    • This is missing in all process improvement processes. It may exist in a separate dept in some business but not internalized in how they do business.
      • And as for  human capacity development that is the most often stor Jeffrey tells. How much difference it made for himself personally, the business and all the people in their sphere of influence.

Thanks again to Gary Henricksen Of Five Maples Development Communications in  Vermont  for suggesting our topic. We are sending you a Get a Second Opinion Mug, holds 20 oz of your favorite beverage. If you want one of our Get a Second Opinion Mugs, send us your ideas. You can email us at carol@bso.com or find us on Twitter @biz_second_opinion . If we use it to develop an episode. Also your ratings and reviews on any platform helps people find us and spread the word. Sign up for our newsletter so you get connections to the show notes and much more. 

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