10 Commandments to Continuous Improvement

The challenge to keep a path of continuous improvement on track is full of obstacles and interference. In the back of our mind we know what we should be doing, but there are often times when we just can’t seem to stay on track. I recently watched an online video (shown below) from the Gemba Academy titled “Ten Commandments of Continuous Improvement” and it reminded me of the great mental tools a Lean mind is full of.

The Ten Commandments not only reminded me of how important it was to stay on path, but also how continuous improvement is about human behavior, not numbers or technical skills and knowledge.

The 10 Commandments To Continuous Improvement

  1. kaizen event teamOpen your mind to change
  2. Think “Yes we can, if…”
  3. Always attack the processes, not people
  4. Seek simple solutions
  5. If it’s broken stop and fix it
  6. Use creativity, not capital
  7. Problems are opportunities in disguise
  8. Fix the root cause: ask “why” five times (instead of who)
  9. The wisdom of many is better than the knowledge of one
  10. There is no final destination on the improvement journey

Each one of these commandments offers a unique, yet simple perspective to continuous improvement. There are many approaches to Lean that range from complex principles and tools, all the way down to simple, even common sense approaches. However, at the core of all of them, is the people and the culture that help organizations in their continuous improvement journey.

Here’s a look at each commandment and it’s value to our thought process and culture we align ourselves with.

1. Open Your Mind To Change

We are a constantly evolving society and to accept the change or adjustments needed for continuous improvement, you have to have an open mind to new ideas. If someone takes the time to formulate an idea for improvement, then someone should take the time to consider it. The culture that is confident in each other will be more open to all ideas of improvement. Not all ideas are worth implementing, but if you keep an open mind to them, they might just springboard other ideas that do work.

2. Think “Yes we can, if…”

As we grow older and “wiser” we tend to loose this mindset. If you ever need a refresher course on overcoming objections, go tell a child they “can’t” do something. I guarantee they will come up with a ton of reasons why they can. For some reason, as we age we instead find reasons why we can’t do something. This is a big obstacle on your path to continuous improvement. If you believe anything is possible, then your path will stay clear of debris.

3. Always Attack The Process, Not People

Attacking an individual for a flaw or mistake is extremely damaging to your Lean culture. No matter the human error made, the process should always be looked at and evaluated. If you attack the individual then you take away their confidence to do their job. This often leads to them disengaging from the culture and unwilling to make contributions to ideas, or be creative.

4. Seek Simple Solutions

It’s amazing how powerful and efficient a simple solution can be. Trying to solve complex issues with complex solutions, often leads to nowhere, or bigger issues. There’s a simple solution for everything, if you allow yourself to believe in this mindset.

5. If It’s Broken, Stop and Fix It

Putting off problems or broken items is not only unsafe, but creates a culture that doesn’t take improvement to heart. You can’t move forward in your continuous improvement path by putting problems aside. They need to be immediately addressed. This is done by immediately fixing any small problems that don’t require a lot of time, or for larger issues, begin to develop a plan of action to fix the problem.

6. Use Creativity, Not Capital

If you’re a sports fan then the sixth commandment should make a lot of sense. Any sports fan knows that money doesn’t buy championships. Instead, the team that often wins is the one that believes in each other and as the best chemistry. The same goes for a Lean team. You can’t buy your way towards continuous improvement, but you can use the creativity and minds that your team has to build a solid foundation under your path to improvement.

7. Problems Are Opportunities In Disguise

A problem should always be received as an opportunity to add value to your organization. Instead of being discouraged that a problem as come about, be thankful that you have an opportunity to make improvements to your organization.

8. Fix The Root Cause: Ask “Why” Five Times (instead of who)

You can’t move forward from a problem without fixing the root cause first. Neglecting the root cause is a dangerous method to problem solving. They way you address the root cause is just as important though. There is no blame game in the continuous improvement path. Asking “why” instead of “who” not only helps you get the the root faster, but also allows others the opportunity to engage in the process without fear of reprimand.

9. The Wisdom OF Many Is Better Than The Knowledge Of One

Your ability to continuously improve is extremely dependent on your culture and the feedback they provide. You can’t be a dictator and expect to have others believe in a process that they take no part of. If you have an open door to ideas and collaborative efforts, you allow the culture to strengthen from within and build a wealth of information to help you on your journey.

10. There Is No Final Destination On The Improvement Journey

If you feel you’ve reached an endpoint in your journey, then it’s time to re-think your path. The word continuous means there’s no interruption or break in the path. For our purposes it means you can never stop improving. If you truly believe that you and your organization will continuously improve, then there are no limits to your success.


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