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The Importance of Amnesty in Process Improvement

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.

-John F. Kennedy


Change isn’t a favorite activity among us humans.  It’s just not something that we tend to embrace.  Change means risk.  It means doing something new and different – which brings discomfort.  And it doesn’t seem to matter that we’ve actively been engaged in change since birth (changing heights, weights, grades, schools, jobs, etc., etc.) – we still don’t like it.

So we resist, avoid, and in some cases, we’ve gone so far to sabotage change efforts.  If you’ve ever been on a team where you’re trying to implement something new – then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Humans don’t like change.

But if life has taught us anything – especially in 2020 – it is that change is inevitable.  And if our businesses are to survive and succeed, we need to continue to optimize what we’re doing across our organizations.


The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence;  it is to act with yesterday’s logic.

-Peter Drucker


The Need for Change

For organizations to thrive in today’s dynamics, much less succeed, they must review all aspects of their businesses to see where optimizations can be made.  One of the most impactful areas to address is in looking at how things are done.

We’ve all seen examples of things being done a certain way because “that’s how it’s always been done.”  You can apply new technologies, better tools, and highly skilled resources – but if the process is broken or has aged out of effectiveness, the outcomes will stagnate – or worse, they’ll decline.


Taking on Process Improvement

Process Improvement begins with understanding what is happening now.  Once that understanding is complete, it is viewed with the perspective of today’s environment/requirements/productivity needs/goals for the future.  Then the process is updated (or overhauled), implemented, reviewed, and adjusted.

Two critical factors are necessary for every step of the effort – data and acceptance.  Data, once captured, is what it is.  When collected in a timely, accurate manner, it stands on its own.  Tools like mobilePLUS ensure that you can obtain the data that you need – and trust the validity of the results.

Acceptance is the bigger issue.  Changes surrounding process improvement get us back to our default of discomfort and resistance.  This makes sense as there are risks inherent to change in processes and protocols.  The most common are:

  • It won’t work
  • I won’t be able to keep up
  • It will uncover my past mistakes & indiscretions

Of course, there is a more significant risk to our organizations as a whole if we don’t continue to change.  But that thought may not (immediately) cross the minds of your team as they are being asked to change.


If you don’t like change, you will like irrelevance even less.

-General Eric Shinseki


The Critical Role of Amnesty in Success

There are several ways to get your team on board and address their fears surrounding risks (perceived or otherwise).  You can make them part of the process improvement project effort.  Having skin in the game helps bring ownership to the results.

Implementing solid training, including ensuring an understanding of why something is being done – not just how to do it – will help diminish some of the fear of the unknown.

But one of the most effective tools that I’ve seen is providing Amnesty.  When you start digging into the existing state of things, you might be surprised by what you find (or don’t find in the case of your fixed assets).

Fresh and accurate data often uncovers discrepancies between what has been reported and what is reality.  That gap may not have been intentional – it may just have evolved from broken processes, insufficient time to gather information or unrealistic expectations of what could be done.

The key to a successful process improvement implementation is to ensure that the people that you need to execute the process have their fears addressed so that their resistance is lessened.  So give them some room to get on board:

  • Give them room to fail – it may take a little time to adjust to the new process
  • Give them room to learn – it may take a little time to get up to speed – especially if there are new systems and tools involved
  • Give them a clean slate to start fresh – taking away the threat of punishment for yesterday can go a long way to get everyone looking forward and focusing on the here and now


Process improvement is one of the best investments an organization can make to ensure that they move and flourish with changing times.  Removing impediments to executing that change, and providing an environment to embrace it will take you a long way to getting the most out of your improvements.

Just always remember…

Change is inevitable–except from a vending machine.

-Robert C. Gallagher