Every job has its challenges and frustrations, but I argue that continuous improvement and process improvement jobs are some of the absolute hardest jobs to have in an organization. Here’s why:
First of all, process improvers are typically in an internal consultant role, meaning they have only indirect influence. Continuous improvers have absolutely no direct control over their co-worker’s goals, priorities, workload, compensation or bonuses.
Continuous improvers have to rely on the power of persuasion and inspiration. Building a case for change takes skill. Data can help demonstrate the need for change, but often data isn’t enough to sell an improvement. Moreover good quality data is unavailable. Adding to the challenge, continuous improvement is frequently seen as “extra work” or “not my job.
To be successful, these professionals must understand the human dynamic.
Communication, problem-solving, stakeholder analysis and voice of the customer are all must-have knowledge and skills. Mastery of these skills takes education, experience, coaching and opportunity. Unfortunately, this skillset is honed real-time, on the job.
Mastery of these skills takes education, experience, coaching and opportunity.
Messenger of Change
Secondly, continuous improvers are the messengers of change, and seriously, nobody likes change. Or at least they don’t like the concept of change. Organizations and their employees often like the results or savings of an improvement, but the process to get there is often really, really challenging.
It’s like going on a diet or starting a new exercise routine. It’s painful. No one wants to have to change their habits because they’re very comfortable in them. Habits are predictable and familiar. But when we want to meet our goals, or fit in those skinny jeans, we have to change. Eventually, once you’ve adopted new habits and start to see improvements, you accept the change. However the improvers have to start the change. Now, try convincing someone to go on a diet who doesn’t see the benefits of losing weight and becoming healthier. That’s what CI-ers are tasked to do every day.
The Ugly Truth
Finally, process improvers live in “ugly.” When something is broken or when goals are not being met, the improvement team is called to help. And regularly, the improvers are the ones who identify when things aren’t going well because they are trained to see waste and inefficiency. Improvers often have to be the ones who deal with the problems. They work on the processes that no one else wants to do. Ultimately, it is very challenging to be put in that situation.
We’re Here to Help
We here at CII understand all of this, and we are here to make continuous improvement easier for continuous improvers. We want to give continuous improvers that supportive environment to connect with other improvers, share their war stories and learn from each other. Continuous improvement is hard, but we’re all in it together. Join us at www.continuous-improvement.com/membership
Author: Allison Greco
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.