Its time to get your continuous improvement processes fit for the future – 2020 Process Vision

Improvement Methodologies

Continuous improvement (* or substitute any of these Process Improvement, Lean, Lean Startup, Kata, Kanban, Kaizen, Design Thinking, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma, Agile, Quality Improvement, Business Improvement, 2020 Process Vision etc) methodologies have been around for many years. The principles are tried and tested and proven with many academic studies that is not to say that ‘applying’ one of these standards will deliver successful delivery projects anymore than being a ‘Prince2’ organisation doing traditional waterfall projects did.

Applications of any combination the above exist in most organisations at varying capabilities and maturity levels. Often the skills are quite narrowly focused in project and programme teams (or even external consultants) and in more mature organisations the improvement culture exists across the entire organisation (think Team Sky marginal gains culture or the Aviation Industries entire sector focus on continuously analysing failure or just near misses to drive improvements in safety). I genuinely know of no organisations at maximum level as anyone truly following the thinking they will be seeking to continuously improve.

Some organisations or sometimes methodologies place a focus on adhering rigidly to a specific approach but my personal feeling and that I can find from improvement experts is that you need to adopt an approach drawn from the best of these that meets your organisations or programme needs and get started. Lean teaches us to learn by doing and develop their people based on their experiences of application of the thinking. Don’t write about a strategy write your first iteration of your approach, test it and iterate. It is ironic in many organisations that the approach to process improvement has not changed for many years and those teams can be the hardest to change the way they deliver their processes.

Continuous Improvement Maturity Models

I remember many years ago measuring our new programme against the MSP maturity model. I haven’t found a specific Continuous Improvement Maturity Model with any standards (I am sure there are some out there) but to be honest that would be too narrow a focus as CI is a part of a successful organisation delivery programme (notice no digital in there). I have been looking recently at the CMMI V2.0 Maturity Models as a good standard already utilised by many organisations because recent user research at events in 2018 has indicated this would be of value to organisations, recently North Lincolnshire Council released a piece of work on Digital Maturity on the Digital Marketplace . We did not bid on the item in question as I believe the benchmarking aspect is difficult as a supplier to commit to as it would depend on comparator organisations being willing to commit some very busy people to a not insignificant of work to do it well not just a quick hour call.
As with all methodologies and our approach to any project I am a pragmatist not a purist in terms of application. CMMI is by no means a definitive and best way (I can see tailoring it for specific sectors could be useful) but it is a standard to measure yourself against. Huge amounts of process management and improvement elements exist in this methodology and benchmarking it against real users it does provide an accurate way of assessing an organisations maturity to deliver new and improved processes. CMMI like the NHS Ten Year Plan places a huge emphasis on the role of process management/quality improvement in delivering modern services for our citizens, patients and people.
I can see a huge benefit in organisations using CMMI or a another standard maturity model to assess their current capability and prioritise the next actions to improve the organisations capability and maturity. Undoubtedly what is truly missing in many organisations is the improvement culture to enable us to perform. We see all to many organisations where the skills are still primarily held in central improvement teams. Its 2019 its no longer good enough for the improvers to be that geek in the corner by improvers I mean the people working in multiple disciplines (data, project, programme, improvement, ICT, Service Experts, Process Owners, Process Actors etc) actively working on improving the way we deliver value for our customers.
Its 2019 its no longer good enough for the improvers to be that geek in the corner
It would be fantastic in 2019 to think that maybe MHCLG can think about how organisations can benchmark and improve and before its said absolutely this would look nothing like Better Connected it would focus on end to end process delivery.

Why 2019 The Year Of The Process?

I have been involved in Public Sector for coming up to 20 years this year. Who knew a random bowling night when working as a bar steward at Babbacombe Cricket Club would lead to spending the next 13 years with Torbay Council and nearly 20 working in and with the Public Sector. I have worked in technology based improvement right back to getting involved in a DIP and Workflow project for Housing Benefits. Most of this time has been spent on working in some for of improvement project or programme. For the last 6 years or so I have been a contractor to local government and had a brief sojourn at a software supplier. The last 2-3 years have been focussing on my own business helping organisat