July 8, 2021

In our previous post in this series, we introduced continuous improvement (CI)—a practical approach to enacting change and transforming processes and organizational systems. But where to begin? How do you build enthusiasm for the work and establish a CI team? Here are some tips:

1. Identify a champion and together build a team. Find someone who is passionate for the topic of your improvement project, whose leadership will motivate others to get involved, act, and stay engaged. As you build your team, it’s essential to be honest and realistic about the time commitment and to intentionally build and foster relationships among team members.

2. Build foundational knowledge. Provide your team with enough training to establish a common language and equip them with the skills to do the work. CI can be pretty straightforward, and no one has to be an expert. Have your training cover key definitions and core concepts and values of CI:

    • Be open to trying out improvement ideas.
    • Begin testing ideas on a small scale (n = 1!)
    • Understand that we’re just trying out the idea. If it doesn’t work, we abandon it.

3. Integrate shared accountability. As a team, identify the focus of the work and the opportunities for improvement. Share the responsibilities and the work among team members. It might be surprising that the more responsibility a team member is given, the more motivated they may become.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Set aside regularly scheduled time for the CI team to work together and to keep others in the organization up to date on the team’s work. Establishing a specific time for CI helps the team build and maintain momentum. Keeping the organization up to date on projects prevents unintentional barriers for team members and ensures better reception of policy or practice changes resulting from the project.

5. Establish a culture of learning. In CI, data is for learning and improvement, not judgment and supervision. So use data to support learning and decision-making. Knowing your efforts are paying off is energizing and motivating. It is also empowering to learn what doesn’t work so you can pivot and improve.

6. Celebrate the wins—big and small! Take time to recognize and celebrate the CI team’s work and accomplishments, both during the project and at the end. End-of-project celebrations can be a fun way to allow the team to reflect on what they did. Celebrations also encourage future CI work.

While building and maintaining momentum for CI is hard work, the transformations are worth it! Have you tried CI? Please share your experience with us.

Tom Hinds, an EDC improvement advisor and technical assistance specialist, facilitates CI work and capacity building within EDC-led early childhood projects.
Zhandra “Z” Levesque, an EDC project director and maternal and child health expert leads CI work and capacity building within EDC-led home visiting initiatives.
continuous improvement
Capacity Building for Individuals, Organizations, and Systems

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