Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Seeking Continuous Improvement.... continuously!

I'm having a blast so far in the tertiary educational sector in New Zealand - I've got to admit it's all new to me having spent the last 20 odd years in a variety of educational and training exploits from secondary school teaching through to my more recent corporate experience in the corporate learning technology sector.  One thing that gripes me a little though is that the attitude towards continuous improvements can be a little... well, stilted.

When we talk continuous improvement, we should always be asking 'how can we do this better' - or sometimes even 'how can I do this better'.  When we stop asking that question we stop improving.  As a newbie to the sector I've asked that question a fair few times already and I've loved the response I've gotten... but when we go wider beyond just our organisation I'm worried.  When I ask the regulatory body why they do things the way they do (and hopefully I ask this in a non-threatening way as a newbie) they shut me down - this is the way we do it.  That sounds dangerously to me like 'we've always done it this way' and that's about the worst thing to hear for anyone who wants to hang their hat on continuous improvement.

Thing is, we need to remember that the thing about continuous improvement is that it's not limited purely to the area we're looking at, it also needs to be in everything we do - especially the standards we measure others by.  What that should remind us is that it's not good enough to have  a plan for continuous improvement in our academic areas, we also need to apply the principles of continuous improvement to the area of continuous improvement.  For me that means asking that 'how can we do this better question' - and if you forget to do that then you end up doing things the way you've always done them.

Don't get me wrong I'm not advocating change for the sake of change or 'churn' as I like to call it, but we should always be seeking ways in which we can improve, in everything we do.

Call me a bit coy here but we're on another one of my principles.  Continuous improvement is not a 'thing' - it's not just a process or a tick-box exercise or even a part of your QMS - it's an attitude.  I heard someone today ask why so many polytechnic's were working on their QMS right now - I could easily argue that you should be constantly working on improving your quality so it would seem weird if you weren't looking at ways to make it better.

In short quality is about continuous improvement and there are two key areas there - sure, improvement but also continuous.  It's not okay to improve and then stop improving... it needs to be continuous.  So next time you seek continuous improvement, seek it continuously.