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Three Keys to Rethinking Continuous Improvement

March 5, 2019

Six Sigma, lean, Kaizen, process re-engineering, design thinking, 5S… every year seems to bring with it a “ground-breaking” new approach touted as the next best thing in business efficiency. But what if the first step toward success is a matter of altering your perception?

Embracing change

Transformation isn’t an option for today’s businesses: it’s a competitive imperative – even for those operating in more traditional sectors. “Statistically speaking, businesses that keep innovating and improving are the ones that end up making more money and growing their market share,” explains Marie-Hélène Jobin, head of international relations and partnerships at HEC Montréal and director of the MSc program. “People need to be agile and learn how to make these elements work for them.” To move forward, it is important to develop a big-picture understanding of existing approaches. How are these methods different? What do they entail? What are the main techniques involved? Simulations make it possible to tangibly identify how these techniques can be incorporated into daily business practices and decide which ones are the best fit for a given organization.

Reconciling operational excellence and innovation

“Improvement and innovation are often pitted against each other,” says Jobin. But it is important to see beyond these preconceived notions and realize that no such dichotomy actually exists. “When we think of people who work in continuous improvement, we tend to pigeonhole them as being focused on examining best practices for the purpose of establishing standards or strict protocols. Conversely, we see innovation as a place of unbridled creativity. Both perceptions are equally false. Creativity is an essential part of improvement. And innovation can only take root if it is optimally structured.” Overly rigid standardized processes in continuous improvement can stifle creativity and bog users down. Hence the importance of streamlining the continuous improvement process and making it agile. And as far as innovation is concerned, we need to dispel the pervasive myth that it is the exclusive domain of creative types.

Necessity-driven innovation: A strategic tool

“Houston, we have a problem…” Remember that scene in Apollo 13 where the astronauts are forced to solve critical problems armed only with what they have on board? A spaceship malfunction is an extreme example of what can be achieved when limited means make it necessary to explore alternative pathways. Obviously, we’re not suggesting your next team meeting be held in zero gravity! But imposing certain constraints can be useful in getting people to look at challenges from a new perspective – beyond the basic premise of working within a set budget. Using a recognized method can be very helpful in this context. “There’s a limited timeframe with steps to follow, figures to abide by and a framework to stay within. And specific questions to be answered. This is often the best formula for repeated success in terms of innovation. It’s not just a matter of money,” explains Jobin.

Looking to leverage your innovation and take your efficiency to new heights? MBA Essentials 2 can give you the keys to ensure the continuous improvement of your business processes, with a proven methodology designed to turn your ideas into results as quickly as possible. .


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Executive Education > News > 2019 > Three Keys to Rethinking Continuous Improvement