3 Reasons Why You Need an Improvement Routine

3 Reasons Why You Need an Improvement Routine

How does your organization solve problems? Are there goals you are striving to achieve that improve the customer experience in terms of cost, quality or efficiency? How do you strive for these goals? Unfortunately, many businesses don’t have a clear answer to these questions.  If goals are established, many organizations attempt to achieve them in a haphazard way through brainstorming meetings, work groups or committees. Alternatively, many are so busy getting through the day, serving the needs of today’s customers that they don’t have time to think of improvement or a way to do things better.

An Alternative

There is another way to set goals and strive for improvement that is do-able and can be part of your daily work. It is called Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata.

A “kata” is a routine you practice in order to learn a new skill, like musical scales or soccer drills. Improvement Kata is an improvement routine that hardwires scientific thinking sometimes called plan, do, check, act. In other words, you plan, predict what will happen, act, reflect on whether your plan was the same as what actually happened, document your learning and then take another step.

The Improvement Kata has 4 steps:

  1. Select a long-term (1-3 year) goal that you don’t currently know how to achieve related to better serving your customer.
  2. Grasp your current condition in one focus area.
  3. Set a short-term target condition (1-3 mos.) that describes a new way of operating.
  4. Apply experiments coached daily with 5 coaching questions.

Common Sense, Not Common Practice

Simple? Yes. These steps may seem like common sense, but they are not common practice. Instead, problem solving is often not aligned to the overall vision or strategy of the organization and completely ignores how the current process is operating. Instead of striving for a new destination, organizations randomly implement solutions with no consideration or reflection on the impact.

The Coach

Improvement Kata is ideally paired with a Coaching Kata. Remember that kata is a routine you practice. The Coaching Kata are a routine you practice in order to teach the improvement kata. The coach asks 5 questions:

  1. What is the target condition?
  2. What is the actual condition now?
  3. What obstacles do you think are preventing you from reaching the target condition? Which one are you addressing now?
  4. What is your next step? What do you expect?
  5. How quickly can we go and see what we have learned from taking that step?

The Results

Taken together, the Improvement Kata and the Coaching Kata are a path to achieving the following outcomes:

  1. Deep understanding of the processes that are creating your current results.
  2. An improvement habit – short frequent practice means that the 4-step routine becomes the way problems are solved throughout your business.
  3. A structured approach to coaching and developing your team.  By asking questions, understanding what someone is thinking and teaching a new routine, leaders learn how to develop the skills of their direct reports, and thus increase the capability of their organization.

Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

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