Continuous Improvement: It’s All About Biology

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When I was at school we learnt about ecosystems and the relationships living things have with one another.

Definition: ecosystem

  •  biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.

“the marine ecosystem of the northern Gulf had suffered irreparable damage”

  • (in general use) a complex network or interconnected system.

“Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial ecosystem”


When learning about ecosystems, we learnt about the delicate inter-dependencies in nature and how if we remove one organism from the ecosystem, the impact can be felt severely by all the other organisms. Sometimes the ecosystem will recover over time. Sometimes however, the effect is catastrophic and the whole ecosystem fails.

We can take this view and apply it to the business world. An organisation is an ecosystem that includes (but is not exclusive to) Operations, HR, Finance, Purchasing, R&D, Quality… the list goes on… but did you stop to think your suppliers and customers are part of your ecosystem?

Dr Deming emphasised the importance of working as a system, that extends to and includes suppliers and customers. We all need to work together in business, and while we think we are in competition with one another, we will not all achieve as much as we would like. Let’s make things clear: I am not advocating no competition. We need competition to make our business strong… but we do not need competition in our internal systems. We need to select a common goal for us all to aim towards, and a programme for improvement that allows us to talk to one another.

I have often spoken to individuals in organisations who are concerned about sharing their ‘problems’ with a customer, for fear of seeming like they do not  have all the answers.  The truth is that we will be stronger if we build an allegiance with our customers and suppliers, and include them in the improvement process. This reluctance to talk about problems does not only extend outside the company fence – sadly it is also true within companies. We don’t talk to the person sitting next to us, we don’t share our success or invite resolution for our problems.

What can we do differently?

Our Continuous Improvement Masterclass uses the Practical Process Improvement method. We work with a cross functional team to focus on a complex problem with no known solution and invite everyone to contribute to the solution. These programmes are extremely successful because they use simple methods and tools that can be understood by everyone and are applied to a real problems. We focus on the business as a system not individual functions. PPI gives us the method to understand our processes and the confidence to talk about our problems and take the steps to make the improvement.

Take a step back from your role and have a look around, do you know what your role is in the system? How do you contribute to the goal of the company? Do you know how to make things better for the whole system? Is your functional area having a positive or negative impact on the whole system? Some important questions!


Make an IMPACT today see how far you get saving the ecosystem.


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