What does good look like?

This is a question that everyone involved in continuous improvement should ask themselves and their teams. Not being able to describe what good looks like can result in unclear expectations about performance targets, variable performance across organizations – and it can affect a customer’s perception of quality. So how do we establish a common understanding of what ‘good’ looks like when everyone you ask may have a different opinion? In our Wastewater Treatment Division, defining good comes from setting targets, and then measuring the result of improvements against the goal. On Wednesday this group of process improvers had an open house to showcase results of their latest efforts.

This looks good:

  • 300 Wastewater Treatment Division employees have been trained in A3 Problem-solving
  • 90 Leaders have defined their standard work
  • 22 Supervisors have been trained as Lean Leaders
  • 10 process improvement events involving 140 staff have resulted in 30 months of time saved


After spending some time visiting the tables and talking to the employees involved, I was left with the clear understanding that although most processes had significantly improved, they were not perfect. But that’s quite alright, because perfect was never the goal.
One key principle in continuous improvement is ‘Perfect is the enemy of better’. Striving for the highest quality is admirable, but don’t spend your time trying to make things perfect. The quest for perfection can lead to endless reworking without making much actual progress. Don’t get paralyzed – it’s ok to implement an idea that moves us in the right direction because some improvement is better than none.

-Terra Milles

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