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Managing Continuous Improvement – Have the Right Tool for the Job

By Roger Price - April 17, 2015

continuous-improvement-1-1I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “A craftsman never blames his tools.”  It’s one that’s often repeated in circumstances where a person is projecting blame for a problem that he/she actually caused.  And there’s no doubt in my mind that there is significant truth in this adage (I’ve messed up more than one home repair project in which I wanted to blame the tools).  However, like many aphorisms that get thrown about nowadays, it’s likely to be misapplied on many occasions because the truth is there are occasions where the tool is actually the problem.

I recall many years ago when I interned on Capitol Hill for my local Congressman that one of my daily responsibilities was to clip all articles from the major newspapers – Washington Post, New York Times, LA times, Wall Street Journal, etc. (this was before newspapers posted everything online) – that mentioned the Congressman by name or any legislation that he was sponsoring and make hard copies of those articles for office staff to read.  I grew to despise this job because almost every time I attempted to make these copies I would be plagued by paper jams.  I called the copier repair person on several occasions, and he could not figure out the problem, so I was left to suffer through it.  Meanwhile the rest of the office was becoming frustrated by the delays and starting to question my competence. 

Finally, during my last week in this job the repair person finally found the issue…there was a tiny broken piece of a paperclip that has become lodged in the copier and would occasionally jam the paper as it moved through the machine and into the collection tray.  I remember feeling a strong sense of vindication once this issue was discovered because it confirmed that I wasn’t causing the paper jams; the copier that had been the problem all along (I can’t say that the rest of the office was as invested in this outcome as me).

The anecdote above is a lighthearted example of the tool being the problem because it didn’t working as intended.  The other way that the tool can be the problem is if it’s not really fit for purpose.  If you’ve ever stripped a screw because you used the wrong size driving bit you know what it’s like to work with a tool that’s not fit for purpose.  It’s frustrating, time consuming, and you usually end up unhappy with the results.  So what does any of this have to do with continuous improvement?  I’m glad you asked.

SharePoint: The Not-Fit-For-Purpose CI Management Tool

Lots of companies use SharePoint for varied purposes, such as file sharing, document management, and corporate intranet among others.  It offers some really appealing features, including integration with other Microsoft Office applications, file tracking and versioning, and role/user-based access.  In fact, we at Phase 5 Group believe SharePoint can be part of the solution when it comes to managing a broad-based CI implementation, which is why EON provides easy-to-use functionality that allows clients to link SharePoint to our software.  Where we’ve seen organizations go wrong, however, is when they decide to make SharePoint the solution for CI management.

Awhile ago I wrote a blog post that goes in to some detail as to why SharePoint isn’t the answer as a CI management tool, so I won’t repeat myself here.  Instead, what I want to emphasize is that, while your organization may be “getting by” with it (in combination with Excel, PowerPoint, Word, or Project), your overall CI implementation is likely suffering because of it. 

Let me use a simple analogy to illustrate this point.  A Swiss Army Knife is a great tool.  My father, who ran a carpet cleaning, disaster restoration, and janitorial business for many years, kept one in his pocket at all times because he never knew when he might need it in a pinch.  That being said, I would never want to use a Swiss Army Knife blade to cut a 12 ounce steak or the tiny scissors to do precision cutting for my son’s art project at school.  Nor would I want to use the miniature screwdriver to take on a major home repair project.

In some ways SharePoint is like a Swiss Army Knife in that it’s capable of meeting a variety of needs, which makes it tempting to use a CI management tool, particularly if your organization has one or more “power users” who know how to manipulate the software in ways that make it appear as if it can do the job.  But when you start to consider all of the moving parts associated with a broad-based continuous improvement deployment – setting and managing strategy at all levels, driving consistency and rigor in project management, implementing standard work practices and business processes, tracking value capture, holding people accountable, and creating enterprise visibility into the nature and status of all CI work across the business – it becomes quite difficult to imagine retrofitting a content management tool to meet all of those needs.

EON: The Ideal Solution for CI Program Management

If you agree that the organization needs a solution that enables and supports all of the various aspects of CI management described above then you’re only going to get that by using a platform that was specifically designed from the “bottom up” for that purpose.  That’s why we created EON.  After years spent helping clients to implement CI programs, we came to recognize that the management and execution challenges they face are daunting and the software tools they have to support their journey are lacking.  EON pulls all of the various work streams associated with CI (e.g., layered strategy setting, project management, best practices implementation, performance analytics, etc.), into one platform that creates visibility into the status of CI at the enterprise level and accountability for the execution of CI at the employee level.

Long story made short, stop trying to just “get by” with not-fit-for-purpose tools like SharePoint and contact us today to learn more about EON…the world’s first management platform for modern improvement teams.

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