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How Do We Know if it’s an Improvement?

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Before we implement initiatives or changes, it can be useful to engage in a process to clearly define the need for improvement or the problem to be solved. When we talk about improvement and innovation, we aren’t just talking about big insights that change the world. Improvement also happens when we make small changes. Improvement is eliminating unnecessary hassle, solving problems, and creating better outcomes.

Questions for Clarity

What gets in the way of getting our work done? Where are there opportunities to implement solutions to problems in our daily work? A problem can be defined as a gap between where we are, and where we want to be. We can start clarifying a problem by using a fishbone diagram or another process to determine the root cause. After we’ve identified and defined problems, or areas for improvement, and arrived at a consensus, decide how you will define success.

The following questions can be used by individuals or teams to question their past and future improvement efforts and problems to set themselves up for success.

  • Did we clearly define the problem?
  • Did we clearly define success?
  • Can we measure it?
  • How will we know if the change is an improvement?
    • What barriers did we eliminate? Evidence?
    • Did we improve the outcome (as we defined it)?
    • Did we solve our problem?

Tips to Remember When Measuring for Improvement

The following tips are suggested by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching:

  • Seek usefulness not perfection
  • Only collect the information/data you need
  • The goal is improvement, not a new measurement system
  • Make measurement part of your daily routine
  • Don’t let measurement issues delay your testing cycles

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