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Escape the Improvement Trap
(Book Review)
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In this new book, the authors look beyond toolsets to define elements of competitive advantage.

In Escape the Improvement Trap,authors Michael Bremer and Brian McKibben take a fresh look at commonly accepted elements of improvement programs - and contend that companies with true competitive advantage exceed the simple implementation of these elements.

The authors assert that companies can be assigned to one of four levels of improvement maturity. Those at the lowest level are immature and are not thinking about performance improvement. The next two levels indicate average maturity, and include companies that are trying improvement tools or have implemented improvement systems, but whose executives are running the businesses the way they always have. The top two levels comprise companies that have implemented improvement strategies, fundamentally changed their operations and learned to engage both employees and executives.

According to Bremer and McKibben, the difference between companies at levels 2 and 3, and those at levels 4 and 5, is their leaders' willingness to implement the nuts and bolts of improvement systems, and then to add five "ingredients" that elevate improvement to competitive advantage:

  1. Customer value should drive improvement, and the value proposition must be clear.
  2. Leaders must respect employees? ability to think, and must create an environment where people do their best work, collaborate, innovate and execute best practices.
  3. A few vital metrics must provide visual, rapid and meaningful feedback to people inside the company.
  4. Improvement efforts must encompass all functions and foster process understanding.
  5. The executive mindset must hold these ingredients together and provide focus.

Escape the Improvement Trap combines the story of a fictional company based on real organizations with analysis of the maturity levels and missing ingredients. In addition, each chapter closes with a checklist of actions you can take to move your company ahead.

 

 



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