Continuous Improvement is Good for Business, Good for Community

Psychologist Abraham Maslow told us years ago, “All of us want to be part of something that is greater than ourselves. We want to make a difference.” Primarily that participation is in our local communities. These communities consist of a myriad of systems- businesses, families, schools, and government which function interdependently to create a greater system in which we live, work and play. Countless volunteer groups and organizations are organized in communities around the globe to address perceived problems and improve quality of life.

A statement often quoted in a community is that when improvements are made to one area of the community system, “all boats rise”. For example, if we improve the graduation rate by addressing where the education process is failing resulting in work ready graduates the workforce is more attractive to companies seeking a location with a skilled workforce increasing the likelihood that citizens will find gainful employment. Conversely, solutions not carefully considered can result in unintended issues for other parts of the community system.

What can be frustrating for community volunteers is finding that all of these efforts do not produce the desired result, therefore five years later a new team is sitting around the table discussing the same issue. Successfully addressing issues in a community is not only about solving current problems. It also involves continuous examination of current needs and resources relative to meeting future needs and resources.

Borrowed from Deming’s model used in improving the quality of produced goods, continuous process improvement provides a structured method for community volunteers to work together to make positive changes in a community by focusing efforts, ensuring that solutions are actually working, and securing support by measurable results. This method provides the tools for community teams to address problems by first defining the problem, assessing the process that is associated with the problem, applying a strategic solution, reviewing the results from the solution implementation, and continuing to refine the solution to achieve the desired results. The process is a continuous cycle with the ultimate goal of achieving not just good results, but great results.

Achieving great results is a continual process of monitoring the results of the employed strategy. As Jim Collins notes in his book Good to Great and the Social Sectors, “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.”

Malinda B. Lowery, Ed. D.
Multiple Choice, Inc.

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