Reflective Improvement – What Have We Learned and Where Are We Headed?
By Chanel Sutherland
As human beings, we reflect. Reflection allows us to evaluate our experience, gain understanding from our mistakes, and use that knowledge to improve. With that said, reflection is an important element of continuous improvement, the cornerstone of our business. At Explorance we have multiple accountabilities – to our diverse group of employees and their families, worldwide customers, partners, and to the millions of instructors and students who use our products – Blue and Bluepulse 2. It is with them in mind that we strive each and every day to never stop growing, learning, and improving. As 2016 draws to a close it’s the perfect time for us to reflect on how well we have met our improvement goals for this year and to begin planning for a successful new year.
As an organization, how did we treat improvement?
Early on, we recognized that the process of improvement involves continuous effort. Constantly looking for ways to innovate, inspire, and influence has taken us this far and will take us further still. Starting with our people we make innovation and improvement a mindset that is instilled from day one. We encourage everyone to share their opinions and ideas and be part of the future of Explorance. This has always been a human company and preserving that culture is of the utmost importance. “In most organizations improvement is led by top-level strategic initiatives and goals. They miss out on the power of the people”, comments Samer Saab, CEO. “At Explorance, we need each and every one to help improve the smallest thing.”
Most indicative of this is that our formative feedback tool Bluepulse 2 has been firmly integrated into our daily work lives, giving employees a platform for improvement suggestions. Like in the classroom, Bluepulse 2 creates continuous ‘checkpoints’ that allows us to capture the ‘pulse’ of our people and innovate the way we treat improvement. A simple suggestion can lead to something that can make a massive impact on our work and personal life. “We can have 115 improvements simultaneously occurring daily based solely on employee input,” adds Saab. We learned that when everyone participates in our improvement they also become reflective learners who actively take ownership of their own development.
How did we measure success?
Metrics and KPIs are only parts of our measure of success. Our company exists in a fast-changing and competitive landscape. We have good quarters and bad quarters. Values may change but we are and will always be a family company. “Success in my books for Explorance is when we can tangibly and measurably make a positive impact on the lives of our stakeholders - be that employees, families, institutions, students, community, environment, or society as a whole,” Saab continues. “Sounds complicated to measure, right? Not really, because when we look at the definition of success it comes down to expectations.” For us, the notion of meeting expectations hovers far above meeting needs.
This is why as a team it has become crucial that we develop the competency of active listening by leveraging our own feedback tools and using them to improve. However, we’ve learned over the years that this alone is not always enough. “Even with the best tools, bringing success to all our stakeholders starts and ends with vulnerability, openness, humility, empathy, care, and most importantly excellence”. Since continuous improvement leads to excellence and excellence starts with us, our goal is and will always be to empower every employee in their evolution. We strongly believe in strengthening our people and never lose sight of this when setting organizational goals. We’ve seen the results over the years – a high performing team makes for a happy workplace and with that there is no limit to the success our company will see.
Where are we going and how are we going?
Our aim is to be an ‘Agent of Change’ in the business world, and there’s a good chance that we already are. Saab notes, “As early as 2003 when I set my sails to Explorance, it was simple. I had suffered in employment for about 10 years. I was fed up of living two different lives; one at work and one at home. I strongly believed that if I set the foundation for a company that never waivers on the path taken, no matter how hard and long, we will built a force to be reckoned with”. We came into the higher education market by opportunity in 2006 and it took us about six years to be considered relevant. Four years later we were considered thought leaders.
Today, we dare to look at the problems facing the higher education landscape and propose tangible solutions that are addressing the pains and needs of our customers. From Learning Experience Management (LEM) where the necessity to close the loop is critical, through Blue that houses key prescriptive learning analytics data, to Bluepulse 2 that energizes the commitment to a feedback culture within all facets of an institution. It is our people who are at the core of everything we do and they are the driving force behind improvement – then, now, and in the future. “There are not many companies out there that put the human first in everything they do, but my bet is simple: believe in people and they will make great things happen. As great things start happening, we will be a role model for success. We all know where we are going so we might as well make the most of the time we are given to make a lasting impact.”
How does your organization treat continuous improvement? How do you measure success? Comment and let us know.
Chanel M. Sutherland
Marketing Content Specialist, Explorance