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How to Pick a Journey Partner for Continuous Improvement Success

By Nancy Bach - May 12, 2017

opex-deployment-choose-a-journey-partner.pngThe path of continuous improvement can be long and difficult, especially if it’s just one of many important efforts your organization is pursuing. Often staffers and even internal operational excellence practitioners don’t have the time to sit back and evaluate whether they’re even on the right path.

If they do see problems or opportunities, they may have little time to do rigorous analyses and make necessary tweaks or disruptive changes to achieve desired results. The result can be slow—or no—sustainable improvement, a big problem. Status quo continues and that’s not good enough in today’s competitive world.

Problem: You can't solve today's problems with the same thinking that created them.

Solution: Use a journey partner to guide the continuous improvement process. This external team of experts can help you get on the right path and drive accelerated progress.

A journey partner may bring many much-needed capabilities to the process:

Fresh set of eyes

It’s not that your team members are short-sighted or incapable. Far from it! However, they may be so close to the process that they just don’t see the problems and know what methods to apply. (They would have fixed the problems already, if they did see them and could solve them, wouldn’t they?) An outsider can often step in and immediately ask the right questions to draw out awareness of less-than-good situations.

Focus

An outside partner won’t be distracted by an operational crisis of the day, by personnel problems, or by myriad other issues that keep internal staff from spending the hours they’d like on continuous improvement. The whole job for the journey partner team is this effort, so their focus will be complete, driving faster and more effective results.

Core competencies

Your internal staff may have been trained in quality methods and have been exposed to application, but their focus is on the core competencies of your business. When you pick the right journey partner, you’ll find someone with skills, training, and experience in a broad spectrum of continuous improvement solutions. They’re not just familiar. They’re masters. They can solve the toughest problems, communicate effectively, and provide appropriate training.

State-of-the-art methods and technologies

Similarly, CI journey partners constantly reinvest in developing expertise in relevant methods. While your team might try learning on the job, your partner will hit the ground running and will also be able to recommend the best hardware and software alternatives to meet your specific needs.

Benchmarked experience

Outside partners have the opportunity to work with many organizations of all sizes. In doing so, they participate in generating ideas and solving problems across a variety of industries. Many valuable improvement elements can be highly transferable to other teams. (Yes, they can apply relevant methods from some other organization while still complying with non-disclosure agreements.)

Change management skills

Recognizing that any change in the organization is likely to make someone unhappy, the journey partner brings not just technical skills but also effective structured change management approaches to help deliver a complete solution by getting dissenters on board.

No horse in this race

Unfortunately some business decisions are made for political reasons rather than objective, data-driven rationale. An outside partner isn’t burdened by office politics or concerns about picking the wrong side. They have no ownership of existing elements of the process, so they won’t be reluctant to give up “the way we do things now” if it’s the right thing to do. They’ll use the process and the data to drive to the best recommendation.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten!”

Pick your journey partner wisely. It could be the best thing you’ve done for your organization in a long time

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