A focus on improvement in any organization is essential for growth and sustainability. Everyone usually accepts that any given process, policy, personal performance, or delivered service can be made better in some way. I almost always find that everyone in an organization is willing to take the time to assess, evaluate, and strategize about how to improve any given part of an organization. Individuals express great joy and pride in what they accomplish in the organization and naturally seem to want to make it better.

I have experienced great interest and excitement at the beginning of many organizational development processes I have led. Organizational participants will gather data to assess operational, service, or process issues. These participants will work collaboratively to define the problem and develop solutions that are practical and implementable while defining metrics to measure the success of the identified solution. After the chosen measurement interval, these organizational participants will dutifully review the previously defined metrics to assess the success of the implemented strategy and revel in their success. Here is where the organizational improvement process seems to stop in most organizations.

Organizational participants seem willing to spend a specific and limited amount of resources focused on organizational improvements. Leaders and managers in today’s organizations are working harder than ever to achieve multiple goals in ever decreasing time intervals. Consequently, there is not a lot of available time to dedicate to organizational improvements. Any competent manager or leader innately knows that organizational improvements must be accomplished, and they are more than willing to dedicate specific and limited time resources to engage in this activity. Engaging in an organizational improvement process once or twice a year gives the leader or manager a sense of accomplishment, but it not enough.

The true test of leadership, as it relates to organizational development, is whether a leader can sustain the improvement process over time when participant interest begins to wane. In the contemporary environment, internal and external realities require constant organizational improvements. Competitive advantage often belongs to organizations that can quickly and efficiently address the changing needs of stakeholders. This reality dictates that organizational improvements occur more frequently than once or twice a year. The innovation leader must work to foster a culture and climate of continuous improvement, inspiring organizational participants to accomplish not only operational tasks but to be also constantly focused on organizational improvements.

Originally published on LinkedIn on November 26, 2015.

©2015-2019 Kenneth Clough