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Continuous Improvement

What can the world of manufacturing teach us about Social Media, Marketing, and Stakeholder Engagement?  On the face of it, not much, but look more closely, and there are two concepts that are surprisingly relevant: Continuous Improvement, and Just-in-Time.

Continuous Improvement:  In the manufacturing world, continuous improvement is all about making incremental improvements in product quality, product features, and production quality.  This movement recognizes that a small but consistent improvement each period quickly adds up and can deliver a competitive advantage.  In the world of Social Media (and marketing generally), continuous improvements mean incremental improvements in response rates, likes, shares, and transactions.  More important, however, is the underlying philosophy of monitoring and mid-course correction.

Just-in-Time: Manufacturers know that inventory is costly, and seek to reduce raw materials inventory, work-in-progress inventory, and finished goods inventory.  The JIT strategy is simple: have raw materials delivered to the factory just in time for processing – not before.  Then have finished goods  shipped immediately to the customer.  Social media and web marketers have a similar challenge: messages need to be delivered according to a tightly defined schedule – the audience’s.  Send a message too early (“Please help me…”) and it will be ignored.  Send it too often (“Me again…”) and it will annoy.  Send it too late (“Remember me?) and they won’t know who you are.  Messages are only effective when they are delivered just in time.

This week’s action plan:  What would it take to implement these concepts in your organization?  This week, choose one thing to improve, and then calendarize a task three months from now to improve that one thing further.

Postscript: These same concepts work powerfully at the individual level as well.  Choose one thing that you do repeatedly, and do it differently (and better).  And next time you want something from someone, ask yourself whether your request is too early, too late, or Just-in-Time.

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Randall Craig

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