By Karen Martin, Shingo Award–Winning Author of The Outstanding Organization
Over the years, hundreds of people have asked me which one book I’d recommend they read to understand the basics of continuous improvement. Each time, I struggled to answer this seemingly simple question. The book that people have been wanting and needing—an easy-to-read overview that’s both comprehensive and industry-agnostic—simply didn’t exist.
Most improvement books written to date have focused on a specific sector (e.g., manufacturing, healthcare, government) or job function (e.g., accounting, sales, IT), or they’ve been dense academic books best suited for improvement specialists, or they’ve been single-subject books that focus on specific improvement practices and tools (e.g., hoshin planning, value stream mapping, 5S, A3, pull systems). Leaders at all levels of an organizations and people who are dedicated to improvement need a place to start that demonstrates the significant benefits of creating a true continuous improvement culture and provides a clear path forward.
Enter Joakim Ahlström. I met Joakim over a year ago when he was the host at an improvement conference I keynoted at in Stockholm, Sweden. I was immediately struck by Joakim’s deep understanding about continuous improvement, and with lean management, specifically.
After the conference, Joakim shared with me a “little” 80-page book he had written and self-published that packed the biggest punch I’d ever seen in a book on improvement. How to Succeed with Continuous Improvement reflected Joakim’s view of what continuous improvement is really about, how organizations can succeed, and how they can avoid the pitfalls that often derail well-intended efforts. As I turned each page, I was convinced that this was the book that organizations have needed all along. Better late than never.
While How to Succeed with Continuous Improvement is written as a novel, there’s nothing fictional about the content. Joakim’s work with dozens of organizations—including Coca-Cola, Volvo, Ericsson, and IKEA—has given him the real-world experience that fills these pages. He’s seen organizations soar, and he’s seen organizations fail in their attempts to achieve excellence. Joakim clearly knows what works and what doesn’t.
How to Succeed with Continuous Improvement will take you through the process from deciding to take the journey to creating a continuous improvement culture to reaping the results. It lays out a fail-proof framework for changing mindsets, the core of any continuous improvement journey. Of particular note is the chapter on how to shift mindsets and behaviors through the essential and often neglected practice of coaching. You may want to read the final chapter on cultural pitfalls first to help you think ahead about how you will apply the principles and practices that Joakim introduces throughout the book in your organization.
By the time you reach the end of this powerful primer, you will have learned how to use “six-legged spiders” and “fishy” diagrams to achieve measurable results and how to avoid “Watermelon KPIs” (key performance indicators) that mask the truth. How to Succeed with Continuous Improvement is now required reading for all of my new clients and recommended reading for the students, webinar attendees, workshop participants, social media contacts and audience members I come into contact with.
Establishing a continuous improvement culture takes the right intention, proper know-how, and patient persistence. Armed with Joakim’s inspiring and practical guide, you are in a powerful position to win.