The Real Success of Continuous Improvement
May 17, 2022
by Cj Pettus
Nexus Instructor Drew Locher talks about the real success of continuous improvement.
Drew Locher first learned about continuous improvement and Lean methodology in the 1980s. While working at General Electric, he participated in a quality leadership curriculum as part of a multi-year corporate management development program. The quality leadership curriculum made quite an impact on Drew, ultimately influencing his career path. After furthering his education, Drew became a continuous improvement and Lean expert. For more than 30 years, he has provided enterprise excellence and organizational development services, helping organizations understand how to achieve the real success of continuous improvement.
When Drew first learned about continuous improvement, he knew pretty quickly that he was learning about something that had the potential to be life changing. He shared, “I realized early on that these were principles, tools, and techniques that could help anyone in almost any role they would have in their career.”
Not only was it evident to Drew that a focus on quality development was vital to the health of an organization, he believed that it could have application beyond the workplace. He said that a commitment to continuous improvement would offer practitioners “skills that they could take with them the rest of their careers—and actually even apply in their personal lives.”
WHAT REALLY MATTERS
There are numerous techniques and tools that are a part of continuous improvement and Lean methodology. Practitioners use A3s, Gemba Walks, PDCA cycles and more. But those tools are not the heart of the methodology. As Drew said, “I realized after 7 or 8 years that 80% of all of this is behavioral. It’s not the tools themselves. Many of the tools have been around for 100 years. But how do you get people to apply them? That’s the tricky part. Motivating people to do that.”
That realization pushed Drew to take a step that led to his decades-long career as a consultant: he decided to return to school and study organizational and behavior science. Pursuing this course of study allowed Drew to really learn what makes people tick. He says that he was really able to focus on questions that have greatly shaped his career—questions like “How do people develop skills? Develop habits? Why do people resist change?”
As Drew points out, “if you think about continuous improvement, it means continuously changing, and that’s not really a characteristic you find in most people.” So that is what Drew focuses on. Tools and concepts are valuable—but only if practitioners have fully bought into what they are doing. Drew designs his courses, like Lean Leadership and Coaching for Improvement, to shape practitioners’ behavior. He knows that creating habits and a belief in continuous improvement is key. People are at the heart of successful practice.
THE REAL SUCCESS
Because of his strong belief in this methodology and the importance of behavioral change, Drew doesn’t shut the door on his course participants the day that a course ends. He says, “I’m available beyond the schedule of the class. Participants can continue to reach out to me with anything that they’re working on: management, A3 storyboards, whatever. Whatever it is that they’re trying to do. I’m more than happy to support them beyond the class.”
And he isn’t just saying that. Drew knows what it takes to successfully implement a continuous improvement culture. He actually wishes that even more of his learners would reach out to him after a course ends. He says, “because I understand that’s where the real success comes—after the class. Once someone has practiced and practiced and practiced, they really start to get the ideas.” So, when a learner recalls something from the course and wonders about its application in their organization months later, Drew is happy to help. He knows how well this methodology can work, and he wants to make sure that everyone is able to achieve the real success of continuous improvement.