Joe’s Journal: On Continuous Improvement

“The next policy for the change leader is organized improvement. Whatever an enterprise does internally and externally needs to be improved systematically and continuously: product and service production processes, marketing, service, technology, training and development of people, using information. Continuous improvements in any area eventually transform the operation. ”

— Peter F. Drucker

Peter Drucker knew that change has to be driven by effectiveness and supported by efficiency if it’s going to transform an organization for the better.

In raising productivity, we not only have to do things right, we have to do the right thing. Sometimes it’s hard to measure. Consider point-of-service technology in the health-care system. Ask a pharmacist about the potential dangerous interactions of two prescription drugs and she can go to her computer and run a check, and have an answer within minutes. The information is valuable, but it doesn’t show up in immediate, traceable reductions in cost. The improvement is in quality and functionality — and it can save lives.

But the most intriguing question for me is how executives, including knowledge professionals, can improve their personal productivity.

Andy Grove, co-founder of Intel Corp. and its former chief executive officer, said he did it by “pressuring his time.” What did he mean by that? Basically that he was always on watch to squeeze something out of his agenda.

“I look for opportunities,” he said. “In every case, the pressure is around time. I ask, ‘What am I doing that I shouldn’t be doing?’ I force myself to get overloaded and then I look for something to throw out. I look at what I do. Should I still be doing it? Am I doing it well? Am I adding enough value to what I am doing? Is it more worthwhile than something else? I negotiate with myself.”

Grove provides us with a way to become more effective as executives. In doing so he is rightly judging the nature of what Drucker called “a unique resource.” He wrote, “One cannot rent, hire, buy or otherwise obtain more time.”

Pressure your time!

— Joe Maciariello