When “More” Isn’t Better: The Missteps of Continuous Improvement

POINT OF THE POST...

Ever felt that relentless drive to improve everything, only to find that "more" doesn’t always mean "better"? Why might your best intentions be leading you astray, and how can you recalibrate?

If you lead or work in a quality organization, a persistent desire exists to improve things. 

I was a lead pastor for Andy Stanley and North Point Ministries for over 11 years. One of our six core values was “make it better.” 

Behind this value was our desire to remain hyper-evaluative, living with an assumption that nothing is perfect. Everything can and should be evaluated because everything can and should be improved. 

Making Things Better

This value was highly valued at North Point Ministries. 

I loved this value. Making things better is in my DNA. That’s true for most leaders. 

At North Point, we believed everything should be evaluated and improved. This led to many counseling appointments (we’ll save that for another post), but it also led to better and better ministry. 

When you assume everything – even good things – can be better, you feel content but never satisfied. 

However, attempting to make things better only sometimes made things better. 

Making Things…

When making things better is the expectation, everyone works to live out this value. Unfortunately, many times, to make something better, we ended up making things: 

More expensive. 

More complicated.

Or, we become so focused on a particular program or product that we become:

More attached. 

A Better Way to Make Things Better

It’s easy to spend more money or add more complexity in an effort to “make things better.” 

But that’s not necessarily making anything better. At times, it makes things worse. 

If you want to make things better, might I suggest you evaluate the following: 

Make Things Less Expensive

If you can find a way to do nearly the same thing for less money, you’ve made things better. Financially, less expensive with almost identical results is better. 

At North Point, I often felt we spent an excessive amount of money to make something incrementally better. Worse, our congregation (or, in your case, customers) didn’t really even notice the difference. 

If you want to make things better, don’t throw more money at solutions without first evaluating the actual value of the increased expense. 

Make Things Simpler 

One of the best things you can do is simplify what you do. 

If you want to make something better, make it easier. Make it less time-consuming. Make it more customer-focused. 

When we, as leaders, evaluate and begin making something better, we can accidentally start making it more complex. This is such an easy trap to fall into. 

When you think about your business, it seems simple – to you! But that’s because you’ve been in it so long. To everyone else, it’s complex. So, when you think about making something better, it’s easy to add more to the complexity without feeling the weight of the complexity. But everyone else will feel it. And your solution won’t make anything better. 

Try to use systems and processes to simplify everything you do. Everything will be better. 

Make Things Go Away

We often must allow things to disappear rather than invest time, money, and energy to resurrect a dying program or product. 

Yes, everything needs to be made better. 

But “better” doesn’t mean we must continue doing everything we are doing. 

There are plenty of times in my leadership tenure that making things go away made things better for our mission and our staff team. 

Nothing you are doing or selling today must remain forever. As times change, products, offerings, and approaches must evolve in kind. 

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is retire a less effective program or product to make room for something better. 

That’s making it better. 

What Needs to Be “Better” in Your World?

I cannot encourage you enough to make things better. But I equally cannot encourage you enough to expand what “better” means to you and your organization. 

I suspect there are things under your leadership you could make less expensive without losing customers or congregants. Some things need to be systematized to be simplified. And there are even things you need to stop doing. 

This week, take some time to evaluate how you can improve things, but keep an open mind to how you and your team define “better.” 

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