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Simple Tools for Chasing the Next Level

Becoming a new nation by declaring independence, as we celebrated on the Fourth of July, was not accidental. It was a dream that was planned and fought for. So is the next level for any company.

Without a tangible vision and measurable milestones to achieve it, people get lost in the regular routine of daily tasks, and achieving that next level seems impossible.

This is precisely why all the ISO standards ask management to make a commitment to improvement, and dedicate a full section of the standard to the concept. Section 10.1 of ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and ISO 45001 all state “The organization shall determine opportunities for improvement and implement necessary actions”, and Section 8.5.1 of ISO 13485 states “the organization shall identify and implement any changes necessary to ensure and maintain the suitability, adequacy and effectiveness of the QMS”. So, let’s look at a few accessible tools to make extraordinary improvements in the second half of 2019.

Breaking it down.

Identify the gaps – departmental data, customer feedback, lost sales figures are all great sources.

  • Does data show an objective you are missing? Use data in employee focus groups to identify gaps and possible actions.

  • Do you see a trend within customer orders, complaints or returns? Is there a common source, training need, or a missing resource that could be addressed?

  • High performing companies implement 2-4 employee suggestions each year – are you collecting, investigating, prioritizing and implementing employee suggestions? Engaged employees know they are heard, and are more willing to support other company objectives.

Set priorities – Choose one or two large goals each year, and a few smaller (departmental?) goals. A culture of improvement uses the smaller goals to build momentum and enthusiasm, and carry the team through the harder or slower projects. Balance resources so you see financial, operational and engagement returns.


Create teams – Include those directly involved, some objective eyes from impacted departments, as well as a member of leadership to spearhead and resource. When the people closest to the project, event or policy see an issue, they need management support that their feedback and suggestions are vital.


Set goals and targets – For each project create a simple project plan, with reasonable time-based goals. Communicate targets to the team and staff along with the reward plan for each target.


Measure and adapt – Part of keeping up the energy level on a project is measuring progress, providing resources to overcome roadblocks, and revising the plan as needed.


Celebrate – Recognition is energizing, so celebrate the small wins as well as the large ones. Rewarding teams that hit a milestone can spur on other teams, even the whole company. Whether monthly potlucks, where you regularly recognize the contributions of team members and announce next steps, or donuts and kudos on payday, a barbecue, or a gift card – pick the celebration method that motivates your team (and if you don’t know, ask!).

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