Psychologically, socially, and even genetically we desire improvement, not just once in a while but always. We always want to improve because we quickly adapt to all new situations. In famous studies it shows whether one wins a million dollars or tragically becomes quadraplegic, their level of happiness or life satisfaction returns to what it was in a years time.
In other words, this is more evidence that improvement means it is not just ending problems but the creation or evolution to a higher state of functioning. This higher state of functioning also must be created from our newly developed skills and increased capacity so this new level of functioning has been earned. It has been repeatedly shown by several experts that shortcuts to happiness, i.e. drugs instead of developed abilities or poor service focus and lower quality produced, generally provides a fast track to depression and lower profits. It is thought that these improved feelings do not last because we know that we don’t deserve improved outcomes.
As I have noted repeatedly, eliminating problems simply brings us back to where we were before, not better. Our constant goal and aim should be to create comprehensive benefits by creating interactions that benefit everyone and everything. Last summer I attended the 2014 UNC Sustainability Summit at Appalachian . At this summit, the difference between maintenance and improvement was noted. Maintenance means to maintain what we have. Of course that is good and better than making things worse and may be needed when something doesn’t work. From another perspective, it may be valuable to not see this as a problem but as an opportunity. These situations are an opportunity to create better if the focus is on true improvement and the aim is to create a +3 so everyone and everything benefits. Recall +3 relates to Exceeding Expectations.
A way to put this idea into practice is to evolve maintenance programs, groups or people to Continuous Improvers. As I have often discussed, the paneugenesis concept and model’s basic aim is to produce gains and make things better than they could be otherwise. As has been repeatedly documented, work groups that are free and able to continually improve a process unleashes creativity, knowledge, and motivation and it is these conditions that create and will often lead to beneficial serendipitous contributions.
The paneugenesis model creates improvement opportunities with its focus on continuing efforts to improve outcomes. Langley (2009) provides an example of how to apply these ideas. As a student of W. Edwards Deming quality management methods, he suggests evolving maintenance responsibilities toward ones that find ways to improve, not just maintain. Maintanence is not improvement because it often means putting out incessant fires or emergencies, which would be a -3 so it can be returned to the status quo (0) or expected levels. The aim should be better or +3 outcomes that exceed expectations.
Therefore, if a Maintenance crew would practice paneugenesis they would evolve into improvement teams. That crew would then move beyond efforts to maintain the status quo toward efforts focused on improvement by instilling the aim of producing comprehensive benefits made possible by using system thinking to generate improved, pervasive results. This improvement approach can be adopted by all, so efforts improve and create a better reality instead of just maintaining the status quo.
UPDATE: In Thomas Friedman’s 2016 book, “Thank You for Being Late: An optimists guide to thriving in the age of accelerations” he explains how new, fast, free, ubiquitous and easy to use technology is helping make this happen. He cites QualComm’s maintenance teams who are no longer just janitors but are now building technicians. Not only can they fix problems that arise, because of all the time sensors, they now have insight on how to fix it before it is problem and or how to make it work better than before. He explains they now have an ability to improve their contributions and this has created higher job satisfaction. Now these workers can make improvement because of available intelligent assistance from smart sensors in the building. These sensors complete what would be like an EKG or MRI of humans to their buildings thus giving the maintenance team insight and information on what can be improved.
The paneugenesis model provides a framework or guide for groups to follow to exceed expectations and to achieve improvements beyond the status quo. Focusing on improvement imbues employees with an added opportunity to contribute and this has been shown to not only motivate employee’s and or individuals but also improves efforts. Efforts are improved because this method provides a strategy that uses distributed intelligence rather than centralized intelligence (Hawken, Lovins, & Lovins, 1999). Practicing paneugenesis at organizations and in society creates smart, learning groups and these efforts are likely to generate improved (+3) outcomes by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits.
The aim of paneugenesis is to generate comprehensive improvements by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits. This can be done by using this 4 step Paneugenesis Process:
1. Operationalize an Idealized Outcome – make sure all involved parties know what is to be created and be sure that it is better than what can be now. The outcome should have pervasive and reciprocal effects that carry meaning and impact to and beyond the individual.
2. Discover Precursors – what must exist now to make the idealized outcome a reality. Discover what skills, abilities, traits, environments are necessary and or must exist to realize the idealized outcome. These precursors are conditions that must be created and not currently present.
3. Optimize the Process – what must be done to create those precursors that will enable the idealized outcome to be realized – go do that now! Do what must be done to create and put in place the necessary precursors discovered.
4. Plot Progress – find measures that document and demonstrate progress is being made toward the creation of discovered precursors and or idealized outcomes. Progress measures that indicate movement is being made toward the creation of the new, desired reality are necessary to give meaning and purpose to the process and to help participants maintain motivation.
I look forward to hearing how you help make it a Great Week for everyone and everything!
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