The Journey, not the Destination

Posted on August 1, 2012 by

It is always great to see improvement ideas and changes emerge from people thinking critically about process. However, depending on who you talk to, almost everyone has an opinion on the best way to tackle the daily problems we face. Such solutions are often worded as, “If only we could do this, it would solve all of our troubles” or “We need to have such and such person doing this, and that would take care of it.” Most of the time these are well-intentioned solutions that may or may not solve a problem. Disciplined problem solving involves truly identifying the problem we are trying to solve, as well as a method that will address root cause once identified. Actions or countermeasures should serve a purpose.

More fundamentally, it is very difficult to effectively change a system or value stream on a large scale without having basic stability of daily processes first. Process management, not individual heroics, is first and foremost what is called for. In the Psych Services value stream as an example, there are aggressive, breakthrough ideas that form the bedrock of a future state vision. But it is important to reflect that achiveing this vision will take time and will involve incremental steps, as well as daunting hurdles. Establishing common standards and consistent relaible processes is a starting point to reduce day to day variation. Once work becomes stable, it allows us to move beyond the previous consraint of waste and variation to tackle the next hurdle, and so on and so forth. Basic stability provides the basis and means for breakthrough improvement. So while it’s tempting for a child to want to run first, that child must first be able to walk. In our Psych Services example, it will be important to for leaders to recognize step by step incremental improvement as a stepping stone towards larger change. After all it’s not about the destination, it’s all about the journey!