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To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2010 by Tim Aikens

This week’s ‘bon mot’ is attributed to Winston Churchill, the UK Prime Minister during World War II. It reflects what most business owners know, – if you are not moving forward you are going backwards.  This is no less true of productivity in either the public or private sector.  A moment’s reflection and you will realise how important the saying is.  The leaders of any organisation always face the dilemma of staying with what is currently an effective way of doing things or accepting a level of disruption as change takes place and improvements made.  If you accept the need for change, the improvements had better be worth the cost of disruption.  On its own that implies that the change ought to be revolutionary rather than evolutionary. Which is best?

I think any organisation needs to have both and there will be a time and a place for both. Some may ask what is the difference?  To me evolution is the small change that can be made with little or no disruption, but delivering a noticeable improvement in productivity.  So, for example, reducing the number of signatures on an approval form to reduce the time between form completion and approval is a small, but noticeable evolutionary change.  Stripping out a semi automatic assembly line and installing a fully automated one is an example of revolutionary change. Huge disruption, substantial cost, but massive gain in productivity.

This then also highlights another important issue. If you are going to ‘change often’, someone needs to think about change often!  Everyone in the organisation must have that productivity mindset (see earlier blogs) that has them thinking about evolutionary change on a very regular basis. Senior managers and directors also need to be asking themselves about the next productivity revolution.  Don’t wait for the technology to come knocking, or for your competitors to get there first, you need to push and drive for the next big change. That demands a productivity mindset and a great level of dissatisfaction with current levels of productivity.

Of course some may argue that too much continuous change is too disruptive and delivers little benefit.  My experience of this is that often much of the change is like rearranging the furniture in a room. It looks different, but beyond that the overall functionality and result is the same!  Many organisations  faced with a crisis (often productivity related) will seek to restructure themselves.  If the associated changes in process and the introduction of new technologies are not there as well the restructuring is often wasted effort and in some situations will lead to a fall in productivity as opposed to a gain!

How fast is your organisation improving its productivity? Is it fast enough?

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One Response to “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

  1. Great post!

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