R&D. Nope, not research and development, but rip off and duplicate.

Everyone has done this before. When you get stuck on a really tough project, you get frustrated. You just wish you knew if anyone has ever done this before. So, you set off on the Google search. You start Googling every possible variation of the project, the project name, and the project challenges. It sends you down endless rabbit holes, and hours and hours of Google searching to see if anyone has ever done this before. You know that it’s not a good use of your time, you know that it’s a total waste…yet you do it anyway.

How do we find the better way to solve our continuous improvement and process improvement challenges without completely starting from scratch?

Let’s stop the endless Google searching. Let’s find a better way. Here are some great ways that you can stop the crazy Google searches and start learning and sharing best practices from others.

1: Find a process improvement mentor.

A mentoring relationship is simply a one-to-one relationship that exists for a trusted advisor or peer to share guidance and give feedback to someone who is willing to grow, to listen and to commit to personal development. How do you find a mentor? Simply ask. Many people are open to share their experiences and provide feedback, so ask now.

Who do you ask? Your mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be a higher-ranking person within your organization. You could find a peer within your organization for peer-to-peer mentoring, or you could find a colleague who is working at a nearby company who could meet you for lunch. Maybe it’s someone you’ve met at a conference or event. Reach out and ask that person if they are willing to work with you so that you can become a better continuous improver.

Okay, so how does this work? Keep mentorship relationships simple. It’s as easy as meeting 30 minutes every quarter, or having lunch every other month. Just enough time that you can get some feedback for yourself, but not too much of a commitment so that you are respectful of your mentor’s time as well.

What do we talk about? When you come to this mentoring relationship, make sure you come prepared. Before the scheduled meeting with your mentor, have one or two topics ready to discuss. Share these with your mentormahead of time. Then they can think about any experiences that they have had, or maybe think of other people that they can connect you with who have had similar experiences.

2: Create a partnership and sharing agreement with another company.

Most likely you know of another company that has a continuous improvement or process improvement program. Find a local company who is not a competitor, but who might be open to sharing experiences.  The intent of a partnership is to truly create a mutually beneficial relationship. It’s not about sharing trade secrets or insider information. Instead, it’s about sharing past experiences and talking about strategies that each company has used in process improvement, continuous improvement and lean. You can simply agree to have a lunch once a month, then each company takea turns sharing a topic of their choice.

Make sure that if you pursue a partnership, create a simple confidentiality agreement to give comfort and privacy to the parties that are participating. This is where you can have the Vegas rules type of agreement, “what happens in this conversation, stays in this conversation”. Nothing is recorded, nothing is documented, it’s purely open conversation where you can share with each other. A great way to find a partner is through a professional organization or a conference. Start to connect at one of these events and then continue your relationship after the event is over.

One of the great benefits of a membership is that you can connect with a much broader audience than you would within your own geographical area.

3: Join a continuous improvement or process improvement membership.

The third way to properly R&D in continuous improvement is to join a membership designed specifically for the purpose of connecting continuous improvers or process improvers. A membership like Continuous Improvement International’s DAM Good Membership has this structure in place. They can provide you with online forums where you can chat with other members, as well as offer you in-person, structured, facilitated events to help you have open discussions with a wide group of people from different industries and different locations. One of the great benefits of a membership is that you can connect with a much broader audience than you would within your own geographical area.

When we stop reinventing the wheel and learn from others, we are going to create more opportunities for success for ourselves and create that personal growth. We also increase the success of our continuous improvement program. Each of these approaches provides you with an excellent opportunity to join together with others within continuous and process improvement who are like minded. Ideally, you can use each one of these strategies to develop really robust mentoring and partnership relationships that will reap tremendous benefits not just for you, but for your continuous improvement program and for the continuous improvement program at other companies.


Photos by Arnav GuptaKOBU Agency, and Product School on Unsplash

Author: Allison Greco

Author: Allison Greco

Founder, CII

I created my foundation with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and MBA from the University of Oklahoma. Over the past decade, I have held Continuous and Process Improvement roles for Black Hills Energy, Williams, the US Air Force and BNSF Railway. I’ve started new CI programs and reinvigorated stale ones. Along the way I earned a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and became a licensed Professional Engineer.