SCORE Small Business Blog

Continuous Improvement: Using What You Learned in 8th Grade Science to Create a Learning Organization
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In my first blogpost, I discussed the concept of the net-positive outcome as the primary driver for starting or joining an organization. People start businesses because they perceive the potential for success as receiving a net-positive combination of intrinsic and material values from the experience. As a business leader, the best way to accomplish success is to provide the working environment in which employees’ behaviors will add more value than the sum of the costs.  In other words, the processes which guide employee behaviors as they utilize the resources the business requires to deliver its goods and/or services must be as close to perfect as reasonably possible. Having an information structure within which Direction is critical. But how does a business accomplish optimal performance when the business situation constantly changes? The key is to train employees to constantly be vigilant for incidents which indicate waste has been created. In other words, create an organization which recognizes that its plan for success, its Information Structure, is only as good as the next mistake and learn from it. I propose that developing a Learning Organization is as easy as remembering what we all learned in 8th Grade Science class – the Scientific Method.

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If we apply the Scientific Method to our business, the first step we take is to ask whether a waste-creating incident has occurred. If so, we can accomplish the research, hypothesis development, testing and analysis through Incident Response and Risk Assessment controls to determine whether we have found the root cause and if the solution, or change, that we want to implement will reduce the probability of creating waste in the future. By utilizing Change Management controls we can ensure the results are reported via our Information Structure so every employee affected by it has the opportunity to modify their behaviors from that point forward. In other words, we can apply the Scientific Method in any business environment through Administrative Controls to create a Learning Organization capable of Continuous Improvement.

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The challenge for business leaders is walking two paths at the same time. In others words, it does not seem possible to stop and make improvements to processes while operating at the same time. The demands placed on the business do not allow the luxury of stopping, so the tendency is to put out the fires and move on. The key is to recognize that perfection is not possible, but working towards it is. The framework that the Scientific Method provides around which we can apply appropriate Administrative Controls allows us train employees to make improvements at the process level.

At the organizational level, business leaders can also apply the Scientific Method’s framework to ensure improvements at the tactical level can be translated to the strategic level. In other words, a Practical Leadership Model can be created within the organization to provide the purpose, direction and appropriate behavioral drivers required to focus the efforts of all employees on accomplishment of the mission – all because we paid attention in 8th Grade Science. So, we have returned to where we started in the first article, “Leading People- Start with a Clear Mission,” in which we discussed the definition of Leadership. The Practical Leadership Model provides the environment and structure within which the definition of Leadership can be realized.

The most significant contributing factor to organizational success is Leadership.

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Tom EakinCo-Chair, Sioux City SCORE
Tom is an expert in leadership and organizational development, business process design and continuous improvement with a strong background in operations.
www.SiouxCity.SCORE.org | SCORE Mentors | LinkedIn | More from Tom

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