Leadership Nudge® 337 – Discontinuous Improvement

January 13, 2021by Sandy Wilmer0

We have to actually use a process for a while after making a change in order to measure the effect of the change. If we are trying to tweak a process continuously, we never stabilize the process enough to really know the effect of any given change. Improve in steps to increase the learning along the way.


Hey, I’m in Century Park in Shanghai.  It’s a little hazy, but the air quality is pretty good.  

The bridge behind me reminds me of the way we think about Discontinuous Improvement. The idea is improvement occurs in steps. We have to actually do something for a while with a process so we can measure what the biases and the standard errors are before we can improve it. If we are trying to tweak a process continuously, we never stabilize the process.  

So I think of it more as it’s steeper towards ‘learning’ early in a project and flatter towards ‘doing’ later in a project. It reminds me of these bridges which are steeper at the beginning. Big steps up, short steps forward. But then later it reverses, with longer steps forward and little or no steps up. It’s not continuous improvement. It’s discontinuous improvement.  

I’m David Marquet. That’s your Leadership Nudge. 

Sandy Wilmer

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