Continuous improvement – It’s not just about Lean

Continuous improvement through sports and running

Author: Nathan Ling

At The Poirier Group (TPG), we are an organization with an exceptionally strong culture where each employee treats the 4 values of the organization as their own personal values as well. These are service, learning, integrity and excellence.  The one value I will be focusing on today is learning, or as a lot of us engineer-type like to call it, continuous improvement. Continuous improvement, in the engineering or business world refers to an ongoing effort to improve products, services or processes.

Outside of work, however, it is the idea that we are never done learning, and anyone should continue to challenge themselves to exceed their potential. This value especially resonates with me because to become and remain successful, one must always be open to learn and improve. I’ve been applying continuous improvement not only to my professional tasks and projects in the organization, but also to my own personal life.

Continuous Improvement and Professional Growth

Feedback in the consulting field, and at TPG is constant, direct, and productive. To some, this may be intimidating and uncomfortable at first. Constructive criticism may not be enjoyable but being open and reflective of it is the first step towards improving yourself. It’s like eating steamed vegetables. It doesn’t taste very exciting but it sure is good for you.

For me, there were times when I worried about my own job performance as a result of the constant critique towards my work. Now, looking back, despite having only been here for a few months, I’ve realized these critiques were from people with both my best interest and the success of the project at heart. Because of this guidance, I’ve grown tremendously as a consultant and employee in general. Being able to better time manage, communicate effectively with my team members in my projects, and be calm and rational under pressure are the key lessons learned that I am very grateful for as a result of the feedback I have received.

A Daily Dose of Continuous Improvement

I have come to realize that continuous improvement is something that should not be limited to your job. I have invited continuous improvement to infiltrate my daily life outside of work. A very simple example is getting into better shape. If anyone is a fitness junkie out there, this may sound all too familiar.

You are never satisfied with how athletic you are or how you look no matter how much time you’ve put into bettering your own fitness and even despite seeing results. We always chase being better, whether it is beating a personal bench press record despite being able to bench press a small elephant or to losing that stubborn area of fat near the abdomen even when you look relatively lean and have progressed significantly since you started.

For me, I originally started exercising to lose weight. Now, despite hitting my own original goals, I aspire to be a personal trainer within a year from now. Never being satisfied and always striving to work on something are qualities I have found in many successful people and tends to be what sets mediocre people and organizations apart from successful ones.

Philosophical Insights

I think a key contributor to the constant need for improvement is that it is a natural condition of human nature to be dissatisfied. It’s based on the concept of the hedonic treadmill. No matter how much distance you have covered in the treadmill of life, you are mentally in the same place. Usually, once you reach the goal you’ve set for yourself, you get really excited for a short period of time. And then the excitement wears off and you think to yourself “That’s it?”. The monotony sets in when you get used to your new reality. For instance, once someone breaks into a higher income band, despite being happy about this new growth, it becomes the new normal after time elapses. The question then becomes “how do I earn more money?” in a never-ending cycle.

The same goes with any goals one works towards. Even if you notice a steady influx of progress, you likely would want more. A lot of times, it’s not the end goal that’s the most elating. It’s the journey towards it. Because working towards a purpose is motivating and seeing yourself improve time after time is extremely satisfying.

Concluding Remarks

The big takeaway here is that improving oneself is meaningful and rewarding. The learning never stops.  Additionally, the motivation to improve and achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself is what keeps you excited to wake up every day. Embracing growth in one’s life, whether that be professional or personal, is one of the most valuable mindsets to skyrocket one’s chances at success.

I challenge you to take on a new or existing goal that motivates you get up in the morning and do better. We are never finished learning and being open to the small possibility of improvement will help you grow in more ways than you can imagine.