Change Versus Improvement


For the last 25 years I have been involved one way or another in process improvement. This means I have been tasked to look at an existing way something is done and figure out how to do it "better". But what does it mean to make something better? By what standard or measure is it better than before? In this regard, I get a bit annoyed when I hear people, especially politicians talking about "change and how it's needed or desirable. Who says? We rarely ask if the change is making things better and what better means. So, drawing on my years of process improvement experience I have come to a realization how we should answer this question. First, change is not necessarily improvement. An exploded bomb certainly can change a landscape but does it improve it?

Another realization I came to a few years ago was that the concepts of "good" and "bad" are too subjective. Instead, something is either positive or negative; binary. This fits perfectly with the fact I have been programming in various programming languages for 30 years. But further, how do we determine if something is positive or negative? I have reasoned that whatever is most positive for the most people for the most time is positive and what is most negative for the most people for the most time is negative.

What is positive for most is most positive is about what will improve the quality of life for the most people for the most time. When we talk about quality of life we mean such things as overall happiness, wealth, health, life-span and such. There is a possibility that while the implementation of an action improves one area for the most, it decreases another area for most. Depending on all the weighted factors, the overall effect could actually be a negative. So, when we talk about improvement, we must consider what is most positive for the most people for the most amount of time. (more on this)

So as I keep going through the motions of building and even rebuilding various processes, I've noticed a pattern emerging. It is a pattern, model, or approach that would be wise and useful to apply to any process we undertake in life; whether building metrics, automobiles, roads, or governments.

1. Improve accuracy.
2. Improve clarity.
3. Improve efficiency.
4. Improve appearance/ability.

This is the approach to apply not only to the end result, but to the process to get the result. Something may be accurate but too confusing or convoluted to explain. That's how I've seen much of what I've been tasked to improve. I also don't like being bogged down, especially by tasks I don't really enjoy, so making it efficient and easily reproduced is a goal.

Lastly, I'm attempting to not only improve how the processes look and feel, but also the user's ability to function with the processes.
Anyhow, this was a personal epiphany not only how I function at work tasks but also in life. Change is not always a "good thing" or a positive thing. Politicians who run on this slogan every 4 years seem to either be ignorant of these facts or purposely trying to con people for their votes. If the end result doesn't improve the 4 things I listed, then the change is not improvement at all.