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Continuous Improvement - Part 4 of 8

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The normal way that standardization is accomplished is by being standard initially: only one system or pro­cess to do a given task. To take advantage of systems productivity improvements or to improve the processes, new systems or process are added or modified. The ini­tial system or process is often left intact without reevaluating the original process. After a few years of these changes, someone will come along, observe the numer­ous variations, and state that there must be standard­ization. A large effort begins and the systems and processes are rationalized and standardized once again. With time, new systems and processes are added or modified and the whole process begins again. This is wasteful and time-consuming. How can this be avoided

so that a continuous improvement process can truly be accomplished and sustained?

As systems increase, productivity usually increases. This is because new systems are not usually initiated unless there is a good business reason. Each new sys­tem improves productivity, but eventually productiv­ity begins to slow and then to fall. This decline is due to the fact that more support people are required, more failure points, more training, etc. When the decline be­comes evident, standardization and rationalization becomes the rallying cry. This reduces the number of systems, but productivity does not improve because resources are needed to learn the new systems and move from old systems to new.

 When this transition is complete, productivity takes a big jump and few new sys­tems are added for a period of time because people remember the recent past. But over time, new systems are added to take advantage of technology improve­ments or business changes. When this happens, the die is cast and it is only a matter of time before another helix will appear and the process will continue until people realize that these helixes are wasteful and po­tentially fatal. If your company is facing huge competi­tive challenges at the time of the helix, the company may be doomed because during the time of the helix, productivity will not increase whether you standard­ize or innovate until the helix runs its course. During the time of company crisis, time is something you don't have. Either the company does not have the time or the person trying to improve productivity does not have the time because management will soon blame that person for the lack of productivity.


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