John Crossan | Manufacturing Ownership Blog
Inspiring Improvements PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Crossan   
Tuesday, November 10 2009 10:32

I heard radio interview with some time back with Neil Sedaka (Who?)  If the name is no longer familiar, he is probably one of the most prolific, successful songwriters of all time.  His songs, over a thousand of them, (while not all are my favorites) are performed all the time by many, many different, famous artists.

How does he write? Every morning he gets up, has breakfast, sits down at the piano and just writes and rewrites music all day long.

Shelby Foote is probably the most widely read historian of the US Civil War.  Every single day he got up in the morning and wrote 600 words, and he wrote them long hand with a nib pen and inkwell. He found that that speed worked best for his flow of thought. If for some reason he missed a few days, he found it very difficult to get back to his 600 word pace, so he seldom missed a day.

When Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling, he didn’t just whip it off in a few months.  He spent four years, just about every single day, lying on his back on scaffolding, dripping paint on his face, painting and repainting, and then repainting.

Coleridge supposedly as an advertising story (after all he did write poetry for a living) told that he wrote of the fabulous images in the poem Kubla Khan immediately on waking from a drug induced dream, when actually it was rewritten as many as fourteen times.

So it is with improvements. 

Generating and implementing improvements is just plain everyday work by everyone.

We have a vision of creativity as sudden revelational, inspirational out of the blue, ideas by gifted individuals.

But if we wait for this kind of process to generate improvements there won’t be many. (And it’s hard to get that kind accepted)

It’s like counting on the probability percentage of being struck by lightning. It’s not high, (unless you are a golfer), but the probability of being struck by lightning is higher however than the probability of winning a state lottery, even if you do buy a ticket.

Every single day or shift as issues develop and are dealt with, the discussion and analysis of these issues should generate improvements.  The synergy of the properly conducted everyday Shift Overlap Meeting will continuously generate improvement ideas, and more importantly, provides the involvement and ownership that actually gets them successfully implemented.

The improvement may not completely resolve the issue, but if it makes a contribution that’s just fine. The next one will take it further. Many improvements simply have to do with generating communication and training material.  And the material doesn’t have to be perfect to be shared. The key thing is that it’s shared quickly while the issue is current. (And again, this gets other ideas built on it, which will get even more improvement.)

We do tend to fixate on equipment and material modification and upgrades when looking for improvements, but the majority of opportunities and the easiest to implement are about how people do work.

Read more on Daily Shift Exchange Meetings at