in Leadership, Process Improvement, Quality Improvement

Who Is Responsible For Improvements?

Improvements don’t happen if organizations don’t have someone responsible for it. This is the reason why a lot of organizations have senior executives who think about and plan improvement initiatives. From a strategic viewpoint, this makes a lot of sense.

However, there is another side to it. Just because there is one person responsible for improvements, no one else cares to thinks about any improvements. This is counter productive, simply because the most meaningful improvements in work can only come from those who are actually executing the work day in and out.

Improvement comes from learning of what works, what doesn’t and what works better. Learning comes from doing the work, from trying, from experimenting and from failing. So two key things emerge out of this thought process:

Building a culture where experimentation is valued is crucial for improvement

In his book “The Fifth Discipline”, Peter Senge writes,

The irony is that if we were only working at the top of the organization we might never have been aware of some of these problems and thus might never have attempted to solve them. But when you build a team that believes that change from any place in the system is possible, significant change can sprout from even the tiniest of seeds.

When people try to improve anything, they will make mistakes. Their experiments will fail. In overly risk-averse organizations where making mistakes is almost a crime, improvements will never come from the real practitioners. Hence, it is extremely important to build a culture where people are free to start new initiatives, look at fresh new ways of working and simplify the complex. They not only need encouragement, but empowerment. Leaders play a crucial role in building this culture.

Improvement is everybody’s job

Senior executives responsible for process improvement are facilitators. They facilitate the practitioners so that they can improve on work processes in tiny bits. Improvement managers then take those small local improvements to the organization level. But involving people in improvement is crucial.The goal of sponsoring improvement initiative is to empower people to enhance their capacity to create. For improvements to have net positive impact on an organization’s efficiency, they have to be driven by practitioners.

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Join in the conversation. What ideas would you suggest to involve practitioners in improvement game? What are the best ways to empower people so that they initiate improvements rather than just executing the instructions?

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  1. Spot on!

    Change and improvement is so important. More important is how that change is brought about and who makes that happen. When the practitioners are not involved the improvements will only look like mandates and people try to comply without any interest.

    I believe, for the practitioners to suggest and initiate improvements they should feel they own the business, they can make or influence decisions. They should feel the pinch when something is broken. It becomes the duty of the leadership team to instill that sense of ownership and create a culture where taking risks with responsibility is promoted.

    • Vamsi, You mentioned it right – when processes/improvements are forced upon people, they comply dispassionately. Leadership and culture is crucial.

      When an organization grows beyond a certain size, maintaining that culture becomes even difficult – perhaps a reason why we see people from large corporations simply following the rules. Empathy for customer’s needs has to be built in the culture.


  2. Ownership is key. Give the workforce ownership and they will carry your ideas forward to success. It is crucial to get the ‘buy in’ of the workforce to our management decisions. Given the appropriate information perhaps our employees would come to the same conclusions as our managers. How much easier would it be to impliment new processes if our employees were enthusiastic about them?

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