Process Improvement – Getting the Right Details Right by Jason Kilgore

If a symphony performance is to be truly exceptional, each musician must master every note within the selection.  Each instrument must be finely tuned.  The venue’s design must enhance the look, feel, and sound of the event.  The “team” must function as a unit, keeping rhythm and timing.   Well-designed processes are much like a symphony performance.  There are a million details that must be considered, vetted, and executed.  Process improvement is a disciplined approach used to synthesize random details into a cohesive series of desired events.  Here are three reasons why improving processes depends on getting the right details right.

Reason #1:  Details are the difference between success and failure.  John Wooden said it this way, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” Even the casual sports fan recognizes that games are won and lost by doing the basic fundamentals correctly.  Play good defense, don’t turn the ball over, use proper technique, pay attention to the out of bounds lines, keep your eye on the ball – the list is almost endless.  The same is true in process improvement.  Mistakes in our business, as in sports, compound on each other to the point of complete system failure (our team makes mistakes, the other team scores; the other team scores, our team loses).   Success depends on doing the little things right – each person on the teaming do his or her job precisely, on cue, every time. Ignoring the details makes us average at best.

Reason #2:  Understanding the details requires building relationships.  As project groups come together to decipher data and map processes –activities necessary for improving processes – relationships are built.  Poring over details focus our minds on the common goal, encourages lively debate, and pushes our team toward consensus.   Each person learns to appreciate the talents, contributions, and motivations of every other team member.  Teams focus on the opportunity to the point that personality flaws are overlooked and connections are made with people who share a common passion for improving the status quo.  Subconsciously, we build a robust database in our minds of who does what well.  Our success depends on our ability to leverage our collective strengths and overcome our collective weaknesses.

Reason #3:  The ability to discern the important details fills the leadership vacuum.  Finding people who can lead process improvement projects is difficult.  There are those who obsess over every detail, unable to discern the critical few from the trivial many.  (They become paralyzed by indecision and are ultimately ineffective.)  Other “big-picture” thinkers make universe-altering decisions without giving careful consideration to the tactical details.  (This type of person quickly loses interest in the project altogether.)  It takes both of these people to make a project successful.  Yet, a third type of person existing in the narrow middle, is able assess entire systems, identify key triggers, and initiate improvements.  It is critical to have a person the team with the ability to act as funnel, ensuring proper focus on the details that really matter.

Shuffling through mountains of details is seldom fun, usually thankless, and always time-consuming.  However, uncovering and acting upon the nuanced opportunities will transform your business.  And that is truly rewarding and worth the time and emotional investment.  The details do matter.

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