Is Continuous Improvement Strategic or Tactical?

As a young man growing up, I liked to take things apart and put them back together. I was quickly labeled an “Engineer” by my parents. I did graduate from Engineering School – what a ride. As I looked back at my career several years later, I realized that I simply wanted to understand how things work and make them better. I’ve been privileged to live out my penchant for this journey during my career through two lenses: 1) People, and 2) Process. Because I am very motivated by performance and results from my focus in those areas, I discovered that my personal mission statement is “Growing People, Process and Performance”.

I take time to explain this because it has helped me answer my question during my career for years. In almost every role in Quality Management or Continuous Improvement, I have found that success lies in the application of continuous improvement both tactically and strategically.

Tactical Improvement 

We have many talented people in the workplace who are solving problems daily. From solving a problem for a customer on the phone, to containing a defect on the manufacturing line, or investigating ways to be more efficient. We may even make a change in how we do work, or charter a project to eliminate waste. When employees are empowered to do their best work, and make incremental improvements every day, process and performance get better.  There are many things management can do to enable tactical improvement for employees; provide the right tools, set clear expectations for outcomes, train them in tools like Root Cause Analysis, 5S, Value-Stream Maps, Process Mapping, etc.

Strategic Improvement –

Intentionally creating an environment for continuous improvement, impacts critical thinking and mindset and is more strategic and critical to long-term organizational success. When management ensures that best practices are standardized and constantly improved and systems for continuous improvement are in place, they demonstrate that continuous improvement is intentional, part of the strategy, and important for everyone. Further, creating an environment where enterprise continuous improvement is strategically deployed ensures that all areas improve how they work (and) how they work together. Strategic approaches like Total Quality Management (TQM) and Lean Production Systems (LPS) are very good models to ensure that improvement is ongoing.

2-Pronged Approach –

I have found that a 2-pronged, balanced approach to continuous improvement embracing both strategic and tactical efforts is important for leadership to leverage. It assures that short-term improvements are realized and that culture and mind-set evolve to assure long-term company viability and success.

About the Author:

David Barski is an Quality Management Professional and Executive Business Coach with over 27 years of management and leadership experience in Fortune 100 companies. David’s mission is “Growing People, Process and Performance. He is a Gallup-certified Strengths Coach and an expert in driving employee engagement, talent development, organizational health.  David has a passion for helping organizations grow and achieve their mission by investing in winning process, technology and people capital strategies.

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