There are two ways to visualize continuous improvement. One way is as a steady march. The other is a spiral. Which visualization represents the better way? The steady march (“We will get 1 percent better every day.”) seems more appealing: we can get there by setting course and making steady effort. The spiral looks less so because it seems you are always taking 2 steps forward and one step back.
But the spiral is better.
The steady march presumes that the selected path is correct and that continuous pressure will eventually get you there. Behind that continuous pressure is the fear of failure, the need to get it right. (“No falling back. Failure is not an option.”) The steady march leaves no space for reflection, learning, and redirection. It eventually kills the project.
The spiral, on the other hand, gets its power from the desire to discover what works and what doesn’t. It acknowledges that we make many assumptions about our journey, that those assumptions may be wrong, that they need validation, and that our world changes all the time. The spiral includes experimentation and managed failure to learn what will work, really. It eventually succeeds because, by taking two steps forward, one step back, learning, and adjusting your approach, you can’t help but make steady progress.
In your corner,
PS: Funny how the fear of failure causes failure. And how lots of failures lead to success.