It’s estimated that as a nation, the UK will get through 208 million boxes of chocolates this Christmas. And we won’t be the only ones. Aside from giving and receiving chocolates as a gift, other chocolate traditions across the world include drinking a hot chocolate and peanut butter concoction as part of Noche Buena celebrations in the Philippines and coating the Turkey with a layer of chocolate sauce in Mexico.
Whatever the time of year, and wherever we are, Continuous Improvement is very much like a box of chocolates, and here’s why:
- There are lots of opportunities to choose from
- They are bite-sized
- They leave you wanting more
- People around you will want to get involved too
- There are plenty more in the box for next time
At the recent #ICIPS conference I showed a series of pictures of chocolate bars, ranging in size from a chocolate Freddo (18g of chocolate, costing around £0.35) to the hugest bar of Dairy Milk I’ve ever seen (a whopping 10kg of chocolate, on sale for £169.99). I asked the delegates about their appetite for each one. As the bars of chocolate grew in size, a few people admitted defeat (“that one’s too much”), a few expressed doubt (“I could give it a try, but…?”) and a small number remained bullish until the final giant chocolate bar was revealed (“yes, I could definitely handle that!”). Ah, the triumph of hope over experience! As lover of chocolate, I know how tempting it can be to overdo it, and this is exactly why Continuous Improvement is like a box of chocolates.
Imagine for a moment, eating that enormous bar of Dairy Milk. To begin with it might feel very exciting and enjoyable. You might feel like a bit of a hero! But after a while, it would stop being pleasurable. Tackling all of that would take considerable time. Would you really enjoy it all? Really? And after eating the whole lot would you be left wanting more? And would people around you see you doing it and still find you aspirational?! The same can be said for improvement projects. Bigger does not mean better. In fact, the side effects of eating too much chocolate, as listed on the Livestrong website, bear a remarkable resemblance to the effects of taking on too big an improvement project. They include insomnia, restlessness, shakiness, rapid or abnormal heart rhythms, anxiety and…caffeine dependency.
There are undoubtedly lots of big things for organisations to tackle if they’re to respond to changes, challenges and opportunities. But unless broken down into bite sized chunks these initiatives are intimidating and can seem insurmountable. While a mammoth sized opportunity will bring lots of benefits, it will take so much time that we won’t experience those benefits for a long, long while. It can leave people feeling and disillusioned and burnt out.
On the other side of the (chocolate) coin, lots of little bite-sized improvements can add up to something brilliant. They are satisfying, yet moreish. The enthusiasm they generate can be contagious. There are plenty of opportunities to choose from, and something in the box to suit everyone.
So let’s enjoy a Continuous Improvement chocolate, and another and then another! Remember to pick one you know you’ll enjoy, and never bite off more than you can chew. Let’s see something happen now – a bite sized improvement that will do some good. And then let’s keep going! This delicious habit is one you’ll want to keep up in the New Year.
We wish you a happy and peaceful holiday, with plenty of enjoyable treats.
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