Are your Business Improvement Initiatives Failing to Achieve what you Expected?

Are you under pressure to get more from your business in shorter amounts of time?

“Is your organisation thinking straight!”

All too often businesses and managers approach improvements and initiatives for improved results with the same old thinking. Sadly, its part of a sustained culture.

We all know that the same thinking will always give us the same approach to a significant opportunity or a problem in the business. This is well documented.

For large initiatives, organisations often use well known approaches such as Six Sigma, Lean and other “improvement templates”, but unless the thinking changes these programmes rarely meet expectations.

First, let’s reference one of  Deming’s Models

We have mentioned Deming’s approach in the past. With his simple model explaining the hierarchical approach to change starts with the way an organisation thinks, then that thinking is reflected in the type of “work systems” in the business. Those systems then drive the behaviour of the workforce thus resulting in the results it achieves.

What this means for us is; if we don’t adjust our thinking the work systems (possible outputs from our initiatives?) will be limited by what we already know, and we don’t explore new thinking that opens up new ideas or explores possibilities we don’t know we don’t know!


At NewLeaf International we have developed a simple model to show the relevance and the positioning of the various levels of thinking in an organisation within any situation.

I will take you through the model.

The first diagram above shows two axis: granulation and bandwidth of thinking.

The granulation axis measures very fine, detailed thinking and at the top of the axis much larger, bigger thinking.

The bandwidth of thinking indicates how much scope there is within thinking. So, the smaller the bandwidth the more detail and closed the thinking is. Whereas wider the thinking can generate or should generate more creative thinking.

So, let’s illustrate this… any given situation such as the design of an improvement programme or the approach to a particular issue in the organisation and everything in between, will be shaped like a funnel. At the top end the bandwidth of thinking is large, so there can be lots of solutions and possibilities.

As it narrows down to the fine end of granulation the bandwidth of thinking is far more closed. Whenever you are confronted with an opportunity you should immediately see the “picture of this funnel”, where the thinking should start at the top…..broad and creative and slowly work down to the fixed, more rigorous solutions, tasks and activities.

The diagram above now divides the funnel into four “thinking categories”

·        CONCEPTIONAL which is broad, “open question” thinking which can generate many possible thoughts and solutions

·        STRATEGIC thinking which creates the thoughts and thinking that develops into high level direction and objectives, goals, strategies and measures

·        TACTICAL level, where thinking about the right tools and techniques and lower-level approaches are appropriate

·        DELIVERY  (or the doing of activities and tasks) is at the fine end of the funnel which is more direct, confined and closed


The diagram below adds examples of the type of activities that will enable the right level of thinking. Again, illustrating the broad nature of the initial conceptional thinking working down to the task end of the model.


The final diagram shows the spectrum of capability or skills required to develop the right approach to facilitating this type of thinking amongst the key people in an organisation. This is a set of skills that certainly should be developed within change agents such as external and internal consultants, continuous improvement managers etc.

These skills should be developed within managers too, to enable them not to jump to the same old solutions or jump to a particular “fad” such as a programme that may or may not provide the right solutions in the business and also to prevent the same old thinking and what we call “jumping to number five” which is jumping to the same old solution without thinking through the situation and looking for more effective approaches.

We have seen many examples of leaders and managers within a business:

  1. Either pitching their thinking at the wrong level then persuading others
  2. Not starting at the top and deliberate working their way through strategies and tactics to appropriate day to day activities and methods
  3. Just “staying at one level” and hoping everything else fits

We train this model as part of our “Integrated Framework Approach” with clients. With several other tools and techniques too. Also with the skills to ensure there is commonality in language and in effectiveness of thinking and working at the right level of the business. Importantly, not jumping to inappropriate solutions that are wasteful, inefficient and ultimately not cost effective.

This is not the only model for change or business improvement. However, at NewLeaf International, this is one of several tips and approaches used by our clients to enable them to manage their change programmes effectively.

If you would like to know more about how NewLeaf International help organisations with Business Improvement and significant Organisational Development programmes, please make contact for an informal chat.



Martin Gummery, Managing Director, NewLeaf International Ltd

Tel: 01905 425209