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Continuous improvement is rooted in incremental adjustments

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Continuous improvement is rooted in incremental adjustments

Scott Miker

Lately I have been focused on studying to obtain my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.  Two themes have really stood out to me as being applicable in helping us achieve our personal goals, as well as playing a crucial role in project management.

Continuous improvement is the idea that we need to be constantly improving.  We need to make incremental improvements and do them over and over.  The other concept that is applicable to our personal goals is Agile Project Management.  Agile was born out of the software development industry where they realized the long project management process were ineffective because they needed to quickly see the results and make changes.  They weren’t able to predict every aspect of the project in the beginning so they shortened the time from concept to launch.

Pulling from those two areas, it is important for us to rely on incremental improvements and being able to quickly get going.  The systems and habit principles align perfectly with these concepts. 

First whenever you are looking to change something, don’t assume you can make drastic changes.  I hear people all the time who decide to get in shape by completely changing everything about the way they eat.  Or they decide to go from zero exercise to a 2-hour workout every other day. 

The problem is that it is very difficult to drastically change our lifestyle habits overnight.  We may want to change and have every desire to change but when it comes time to act we will likely find that the hold our habits have over us is too intense. 

Therefore we have to attack them in small batches.  We have to isolate small habits that we can improve upon.  By making these incremental improvements we can start to build new lifestyle habits and it will make it much easier to build these over time than it would be to instantly adopt these new habits. 

From an Agile perspective, we need to get to success or failure quickly and then make adjustments.  We can’t develop a huge plan for achieving our goal ahead of time because most of us don’t know how we will react to the various elements of the plan.  It is incredibly difficult to account for all of the unknowns. 

This is why taking the approach of being flexible and having short steps makes sense.  This allows us to constantly evolve our plan to make sure that we make decisions based on what we know today, rather than following a long, drawn-out plan from last month. 

It may sound like this emphasizes ignoring plans and winging it whenever you want to reach a goal but it is actually the exact opposite.  The reality is that this emphasizes finding very small steps to implement that will help build habits to take you towards success.  By doing this you will be constantly evaluating and planning but getting to action much quicker because action is where you start to do the things necessary to achieve.  The key to continuous improvement and Agile project management is that it gets to action quicker and works on making incremental improvements.