On-Going Improvement – running a Marathon one step at a time

Two things brought this subject to mind lately…

The first one is that I noticed that once again I am overweight, and I set myself a goal to run a 10 Km race in 8 weeks from now.
The second, I was a bit frustrated yesterday with the fact that one of my projects is not advancing fast enough.  Or so I though until I took time off and started appreciating all the stuff we accomplished in the last 6 weeks, and the advances were definitely impressive.

The fact is that I beleive in working based on On-Going Improvements, instead of big and revolutionary changes.  Like the training schedule I found in order to prepare for the race, that increases the distance about 400m each week, but at the end gets you to the place you want to be at a pace you can maintain. The same goes for most of my projects, I believe in working based on a succession of small improvements.

Basically I think that this strategy has a bigger chance of success since:
1. Smaller changes are easier to implement than larger ones, specially on projects that are running at full speed.
2. Changes that come from on-going improvements are born from the process itself, so they usually have a direct and immediate effect (even if a small effect) on your system that can be measured.
3. Smaller changes are easier to roll-back in case you decide the effect was not the one you were lucking for.

The best part about on-going improvements is that you can start with them today without an overblown statement, objective or kick-off party.  It is as simple as taking a look at whatever you feel requires improving and thinking about small changes that will bring you value.  Sometimes it is easier to start with a Pareto Analysis to select the low hanging fruit that will give you the biggest gains.

On-going improvements are not new and definitely not revolutionary, they’ve been around for a long time and are used in all sorts of methodologies such as Project Retrospectives and even in as part of the Scrum Methodology.  I simply think that we can take advantage of them and apply their principles to most daily processes and projects.

Give them a try and tell me what you think!

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