September 08, 2016
The (Not So) Secret of Sustainable Improvement
By: Michael Kenfield

Successful physicians diagnose diseases to help people heal. Successful coaches develop the performance of athletes and teams. Successful detectives solve problems to determine who committed the crime. What key behavior do they all have in common, and how can we apply it to making sustainable improvements in our organizations?

The common behavior key to their success is that they work with specific details, not in generalities. Doctors treat each person as a unique patient and seek to learn the specific details of the patient’s condition. Coaches study the specific strengths and weaknesses of their athletes and teams, which guides improvement plans and strategies. Detectives go to the scene of the crime to gather specific evidence and eyewitness testimony because they know the importance of getting the facts right and finding important evidence.

By contrast, leaders in today’s workplaces often rely on summary reports and management by exception. Related to leading improvements, leaders’ involvement is often limited to reviewing status reports and attending milestone completion meetings. Seeing firsthand and finding the facts is often left up to others.

A common feature of organizations recognized for their success in making sustainable improvements is the use of gemba walks. Gemba walks are characterized by going to the place where the work is done and working directly with the people who do the work to involve them in making improvements and owning the results. Like successful doctors, coaches, and detectives, these leaders engage at the level of specifics, not in generalities.

What skills do you currently have to deal with the details? What benefits would come to you, those you lead, and your organization if you were able to observe like a doctor, develop like a coach, and problem-solve like a detective?  

The Accenture Academy courses From Customers to Value Stream to Gemba to Improvements, Introduction to Gemba Walks, How to Carry Out Gemba Walks, A Leader’s Role in Gemba Walks, and Tips for Starting Successful Gemba Walks will provide you with the know-what and know-how to apply gemba walks to your leadership skills. With these skills, you will increase your ability to ensure the important organizational improvements are identified, implemented, and sustained. 

About Accenture Academy

Accenture Academy offers proven, cost-effective learning solutions for a more versatile workforce and a more agile organization. We provide a flexible learning approach that helps your people be more versatile and your entire organization be more agile in the marketplace. Curriculum includes Supply Chain Management, Finance, Procurement, Analytics, Leadership & Management and Specialty Skills.


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