Continuous Improvement: Cures The Two-Year Itch

Several years ago I had a long but fun job interview. In that interview I was honest with my prospective employer about my strengths, my passions and my need to be challenged.

I pointed to my historical pattern of two years of achieving in a role, before I got bored and needed to learn something new and needed to make a greater difference. (Which usually meant I moved on…)

The interviewer smiled and nodded and shared that he had the same problem. …Until he came to work in this company…

He had my attention.

I had his attention.

And I got the job.

Band-Aids and EASY Buttons -Or- SOLUTIONS?

An owner of a couple of small businesses is frustrated with dwindling profits.

He blames his staff, treats them badly, moves them to different locations, stalls their vacations and refuses to listen to their feedback.

The truth is:

  • He has been an absentee owner that has happily collected profits from the businesses while choosing not to be involved in day-to-day operations.
  • He hasn’t trained his employees or empowered them to make decisions.
  • He has not been engaged with his customers and doesn’t know what they value.
  • He hasn’t been proactive about growing his businesses or even keeping up with his competitors.
  • His prices are higher than the competition and his facilities are cramped, cluttered, outdated, and equipped with poor quality equipment and tools.

Executives: Do you not know? OR …Do you not care?

Years ago I read a wonderful post by Ted Coine titled, Dear CEO:  Who tells you when your baby is ugly?

The post resonated loudly, because as an employee and as a customer I have wondered…  

Over the past 41 days, I’ve asked that question at an increasingly high level…

Integrity Matters Because…

Today I visited with a neighbor that was emphasizing how much the company her husband works for values integrity.

As she shared her thoughts I imagined the difference between the list of core values that hang on walls and collect dust, and those that are used to guide decisions.

She went on to share a story about a compound that the company had decided they would not continue to use for their expat’s housing because of extraordinary cost.

The first thing the company did was to decide that anyone that was already living there could stay.

  • (A choice that will cost the company a few extra dollars but prevents unnecessary stress on families. And keeps their workers more focused on their jobs.)

The second decision came when a new executive moved to the area and insisted on living in that compound.

DEEP Understanding Drives Change

I cannot do all of the good the world needs but I can do all the good that I can do

Several years ago I sat in a room full of volunteers that were being trained to go into schools and work with children that were at risk of dropping out. One of our exercises was a simulation that was designed to help us better understand the day-to-day realities for their families.

  • We were divided up into small groups.
  • Each one of us was given a role to play.
  • Then we were given a real life problem that needed to be solved.
  • And a name of a place we needed to go to for help.

In the simulation I was the small child of a single mother that had no car.

  • “My mother” needed food and a job and childcare.

The simulation was timed to help us understand everything that she needed to accomplish in one day – just to bring home food. (Let alone finding a job or daycare.)

Each time we got off the simulated bus, we walked into a facility and stood in a long line. To eventually be re-directed to another place for services that was across town with different operating hours and another long line.

My job was to simulate how a child begins to act as a few hours becomes a day without food, without a nap, without play.