Create, Implement Improvements Daily

John Crossan
Tags: continuous improvement

I heard a radio interview some time back with Neil Sedaka. If the name is no longer familiar, he is probably one of the most successful songwriters of all time. His songs (more than 1,000 of them) are performed by many different and famous artists. How does he write? Every morning he gets up, has breakfast, sits down at the piano, and just writes and rewrites music all day long.

Shelby Foote is probably the most widely read historian of the U.S. Civil War. Every single day, he got up in the morning and wrote 600 words, and he wrote them long hand with a nib pen and inkwell. He found that speed worked best for his flow of thought. If for some reason he missed a few days, he found it very difficult to get back to his 600-word pace, so he seldom missed a day.

When Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling, he didn't just whip it out in a few months. He spent four years, just about every single day, lying on his back on scaffolding, dripping paint on his face, painting and repainting, and then repainting.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge supposedly told that he wrote of the fabulous images in the poem Kubla Khan immediately on waking from a drug-induced dream, when actually it was rewritten as many as 14 times.

So it is with improvements.

Generating and implementing improvements is just plain everyday work by everyone. We have a vision of creativity — sudden revelation, inspiration out of the blue, ideas by gifted individuals – but if we wait for this kind of process to generate improvements, there won't be many.

It's like counting on the probability percentage of being struck by lightning. It's not high (unless you are a golfer). However, the probability of being struck by lightning is higher than the probability of winning a state lottery, even if you do buy a ticket.

Every single day or shift, as issues develop and are dealt with, the discussion and analysis of these issues should generate improvements. The synergy of the properly conducted daily shift overlap meeting will continuously generate improvement ideas, and more importantly, provide the involvement and ownership that actually gets these ideas successfully implemented.

The improvement may not completely resolve the issue, but if it makes a contribution, that’s just fine. The next one will take it further. Many improvements simply have to do with generating communication and training material. The material doesn't have to be perfect to be shared. The key thing is that it's shared quickly while the issue is current. This enables other ideas to be built on it, which will lead to even more improvement.

We do tend to fixate on equipment and material modification and upgrades when looking for improvements, but the majority of opportunities and the easiest to implement are about how people do work.