I remember clearly one of the first lessons at “Continuous Improvement school” years ago. Any positive progress or improvement will need both a high-quality answer and significant engagement.
There is widespread theoretical understanding that “a 100% solution that no-one understands is much worse than a 50% solution that everyone wants and gets”. However, this theoretical lesson is often forgotten in practice.
In this piece, I’ll look at why we often get this wrong, what we can do better, and I’ll expose my nascent hypothesis of how we can make this “MILES” better.
We focus on the logic, but forget that it is only half the battle
We often get tempted into thinking that if we just work a bit harder on the logic, then it will become unstoppable.
However, my memory was given a nudge recently when we hit this very destructive logic vortex. Round and round we went, developing ever more supportable service models, convinced we were “right” (whatever that means). We had forgotten to ensure, as we were busy with reading, writing and arithmetic, that engagement was travelling nowhere near as quickly as our logic.
In reality, all that happens is that the unstable force of logic meets the immovable object of will – which may manifest itself through passive (or indeed active) aggression, apathy or disengagement.
So why do we get this wrong? (Clue: It’s nothing to do with a lack of awareness of the above). I think we simply forget it or choose to ignore the niggle in our head. Perhaps at times we subconsciously avoid difficult people and retreat to perfecting our Python code and get busy simply doing what we think we can do.
Perhaps we are asked to “do the research and the numbers and we’ll make sure people understand them”.
This was not Russell’s intent when he founded “2020 Delivery” with a capital D in its title.
We need to pair logic and engagement, just like strands of DNA
Like the double-helix of DNA, the quality of the answer and the level of engagement are integral parts of the same body of results.
As we travel towards the answer, they must remain close together. Yes, at times a new bit of logic will lead engagement (“oh, I didn’t know of that new technical platform would allow me to see the numbers I need”) but equally engagement will lead logic at times (“Things as they are, are simply not supportable; I’ll go mad if we don’t do something about it”).
Logic and engagement are more than mutually supportive on the journey towards a better future – it is a symbiotic relationship. One without the other is insufficient and unsustainable. They must remain together.
We need a better way of keeping the double helix together when we work with our clients.
A little like the base pairs do in linking together the double helix in the DNA molecule. If the links become strained or even broken, things can quickly unravel as we try to improve stuff. As with any teamwork, we are only as strong as our weakest link.
From my experience, there are five key improvement “base pairs” that should act together throughout any improvement journey – a yin and yang if you like.
Take a look at them and see what you think:
The challenge is not to agree with this in principle, but to design an approach to use it in practice to achieve real results to make our service better.
But how much better? MILES better.
This is just the start. I’m looking for your help, your experience, and your insight.
I’d like to work with you through this calendar year of 2020 to grow this understanding and appreciation of this model of improvement thinking.
Each month, I will be writing a new blog post that dives into each ‘base-pair’ of the MILES better framework illustrated above.
If you’re interested about joining me, challenging my thinking and generating better ideas, then drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be delighted to hear from you!
I look forward to 12 months of development!