Thursday, March 16, 2017

Iterate to Continually Improve

Thoughts on: The Challenge of PDSA: Feeling Like You’ve Fallen Short

For me, this snowball was the understanding of the continuous improvement cycle, the iterative process towards ideal state or what many call “true north.” I have seen and explained the well-known visual many times; the person climbing up towards target state and, ultimately, ideal state through PDSA, only seeing ahead of them as far as the flashlight reaches.

The relationship of PDSA iterations and ideal state never really dawned on me while I was working through PDSA cycles in problem solving. The visual depicts the learner stair-stepping up through PDSA cycles, each step up the flashlight seeing further, learning more and getting closer to ideal.
In absence of a clearly defined Target state, satisfaction with progress, pace, and incremental improvements may more times than not, leave you feeling as if you have fallen short.

Iteration and continual improvement are key. Understanding that "target state" is a temporary target is important. If a "ideal state" is too specific it can hamper innovation. This usually isn't so critical on fairly short term PDSA (except in those cases when we should look at innovation instead of improving the current process).

The PDSA process doesn't hamper innovation. But, when people set in their minds ideal states or targets that they move toward and don't see those as flexible based on new learning they can stunt innovation.

Related post: Resources for Using the PDSA Cycle to Improve Results - Continually Improving Using a Focus on Delighting Customers