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24 SMT007 MAGAZINE I JANUARY 2021 the individual or team level? Does that count? Millard thinks it does. She wrote, "Continuous improvement can be viewed as a formal prac- tice or an informal set of guidelines." One way to sniff out organic continu- ous improvement is to listen for complaints and watch to see how those complaints are resolved. Millard advises us to "embrace them [complaints] as opportunities for improvement. If a team member notices something amiss and says something about it, that's a good thing. That's the beginning of the improve- ment cycle." [7] Do You Suffer from Performance Transparency? Once a complaint about an inefficiency in the process has been identified, and then mon- itored to learn how the complaint was resolved (or was it?), you also get a sense for the per- formance transparency in your organization. Was the inefficiency identified? Was a root cause determined? Was the root cause then addressed? And was the resolution communi- cated to others? Millard says, "Constant feedback is an impor- tant aspect of the continuous improvement model. Open communication during every phase of executing an improvement is critical to both the final results of the improvement and to the maintenance of employee engage- ment." [8] With respect to feedback, Dewar, Doucette and Epstein add, "Making goals public and cascading those goals (typically a balanced mix of financial and operational metrics) in a way that is tailored to individuals at all lev- els of the organization. Progress toward goals must be transparently tracked to give the front- line and management clear visibility into what is working and what needs work." [9] This is entirely reasonable when attacking continuous improvement on a larger scale. But does this work on a smaller scale? For example, how does one achieve transpar- ency when working alone, or when optimizing one's individual contributions to the overall flow of a team? To whom do you hold yourself accountable? moted improvement. As odd as it may sound, employees might be more aware of company processes than the management. Hence, it's important to take everyone on board when it comes to improvement. The concept is simple, the process should include employees." [4] In fact, Dewar, Doucette and Epstein point out, "Companies that excel at continuous improvement start with the belief that success comes from: • Innovating "how" they do what they do (big and small) • Engaging all employees in sharing knowledge and generating improvement ideas • Exploring better ways to deliver to customers and respond to changes in the external environment." [5] Here at I-Connect007, we've tagged this con- cept "X=X c – 1." We're presenting the idea that incremental improvements can happen at any level and can be of any size. We posit that a significant number of small, easy-to-imple- ment, no- or low-cost incremental improve- ments can add up to a significant increase in operational efficiencies, improved quality, and profitability. The "X" could be anything: steps between repetitive work tasks on the shop floor; the number of design respins needed to get a working prototype of a new product; or maybe a routine process in the accounting department. Further, this kind of incremental improvement need not necessarily require top- down company mandates to change company culture. How Can We Recognize it? The "X=X c – 1" dynamic may already be in place in your company. In a blog post, Daeda- lus Howell writes, "In its essence, continuous improvement is the practice of honing every aspect of your company's processes in a man- ner that enhances your offering's value to your customer while diminishing any activity that proves wasteful along the way." [6] What if continuous improvement is being employed within your company organically, at

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