A Reformed Skeptic's View on Using Social Media in Process Improvement

Social media holds huge potential for continuous improvement activities. Really? Eric Michrowski, Director of Process Improvement Centre of Excellence at TELUS, is a convert.

Much has been written and observed on how dramatically social media has been reshaping our social interactions. Online social networking tools such as Facebook and LinkedIn, micro-blogging tools such as Twitter, and crowd-sourcing sites such as Wikipedia and Yelp are no longer just communication tools of a generation and have definitely gone mainstream.

Many organizations have realized the importance of these tools to effectively support marketing and brand management initiatives. And in a few cases, organizations that haven't realized the importance of this new communication medium have faced embarrassing public relations nightmares where an issue exploded in the social media space for days until it moved into mainstream media at a point where it became difficult to contain.

I once counted myself amongst those skeptical of the value of social media in the business and process improvement context. However, over the course of the last few years, I've come to realize the huge opportunity presented by social media to the process improvement professional and have had a chance to experiment with many different tools and approaches.

When social media is well leveraged in a business context, it creates a new medium to encourage collaboration, communication, learning and knowledge management. In the process improvement context, these tools can also help overcome time and space barriers.

The following are just a few of the potential opportunities that social media could present to the process improvement practitioner:

  • Improve our understanding of the voice of the customer
  • Create a forum to pilot process changes with a broader audience
  • Solicit feedback on proposed process changes or challenges
  • Engage team members in Kaizen events that couldn't normally participate due to shifts (time barriers) or geographical spread (space barriers)
  • Communicate the work of a Kaizen team in real-time
  • Share knowledge gained through solving process challenges
  • Gain a deeper understanding of potential root causes
  • Exchange ideas, collaborate and create new connections with other process improvement professionals

I encourage you to start exploring some of the potential opportunities that social media presents to us in evolving and enhancing our existing methods and to challenge any preconceptions that might exist around the value of these tools. As we continue to explore the opportunities presented by social media, I remain committed to sharing discoveries and ideas both on my personal blog and through the Process Excellence Exchange and encourage you to collaborate and exchange ideas on your discoveries.

Editor’s note: Eric Michrowski and the Apollo Group's Michael Marx will be exploring these opportunities in more detail in a free Process Excellence Network webinar on Tuesday 28 June at 12 ET. To sign up to the webinar go to: Getting Started with Using Social Media in Continuous Improvement.