I am sitting through ATAC’s Lean Accounting workshop this week and pondering. I’m not an accountant by any stretch of the imagination. If it weren’t for my wife, I’d even have trouble keeping a balance in my check book. However, I am sorting this number talk into terms that make sense to me.
Our instructor has done an excellent job of talking in plain speak. In fact, that is really the objective of the lean accounting process – putting numbers and financial-type reports into plain speak. By doing that, everyone (even accounting-challenged people like myself) can understand. I like that, but what has caught my attention this morning is how clearly this training has broken down the description of improvement.
As we in lean continuous improvement stress, improvement is a journey rather than a destination. What we strive to achieve in our lives is to make things a little better each day. That concept in itself is simple sounding, but achievement can often get bogged down in the daily grind and details.
Our instructor, Bruce Baggaley, in his training has helped break down the concept of improvement into three fundamental principles: 1) Break-Through Improvement; 2) Continuous Improvement; and 3) Daily Improvement. Each is defined as follows:
Break-Through Improvement: Includes scheduled improvement; top-down improvement; break-through change; major projects; driven by value stream maps; temporary teams; fast and radical. This represents the organizational vision for improvement and sets the strategy for achieving.
Continuous Improvement: Simply put, this is kaizen – or what we call in our shop Rapid Improvement Events. This is in support of the strategy and vision. This is where the tires hit the pavement and multi-disciplinary teams are formed to bring about improvement in the actual elements of a process -- on the shop floor if you will.
Then there is that third category, Daily Improvement: Daily improvement is where we as individuals can achieve perhaps our greatest impact. This is where we actually can make things a little better each day. We focus on making small changes. These small changes support the organizational vision and strategy and are driven by issues and solving problems to resolve those issues. However, they are our own. We as individuals own and manage them. Daily improvement is local, within a work cell or department – or – it can be within one’s own office and on one’s individual “desk top.”
Daily improvement is not trying to hit the home run. It is simply trying to get a base hit, or even, getting a bunt that helps get a team mate on base (sorry, but I like baseball analogies).
Daily improvement can and does account for thousands of small changes that ultimately result in massive improvement within an organization.
What is your daily improvement objective today?