Continuous Innovation is your Competitive Edge

Jennifer Nietz - Director of Operations


For those of you that know the COACT culture or have been exposed to it, you already know that we have culture dedicated to continuous improvement.  In our small company structure, that continuous wave of improvement sometimes feels more like tidal waves of improvement.  It’s very natural, I think, to believe that the continuous improvement path you select for yourself or company is not always the right path.  Over the past year, as I come to my one-year anniversary of my Baldrige experience, I have evaluated my journey and our journey as a company.  At times, I am confident in our approach, and at times, there is a feeling of uncertainty.

I was preparing this week for our annual TPE Baldrige Conference next week when I came across a quote in an article on and had an instant moment of clarity.  Clarity may be the wrong word, but assurance in knowing that any continuous improvement journey feels like this. The management struggle of what is the right thing to be doing at any given time is real, and quite frankly should be real. It wouldn’t be continuous improvement if it didn’t feel like that. The quote is as follows:

“Now, more than ever, management is a balancing act – the juggling of contradictions to try to get the best of attractive but opposing alternatives.  Order is a temporary illusion strategy a moving target.  Leaders cannot impose authority on a world of constant motion; they can only hope to steer some of that action toward productive ends.” – Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School professor, consultant, and author

As a “multi-hat” manager, it is very easy to become critical of your individual leadership (especially if you are a perfectionist like me) during times of continuous improvement initiatives.  The idea of “steering some action toward productive ends” is exactly the day-to-day leadership goal you should adopt as a manager.

As the article states:

Today’s leading organizations are knowledge-creating companies that thrive on continuous innovation.  It’s a big competitive edge.  New products and services can be copied. But it’s much harder for competitors to duplicate a management system and corporate culture that produces a continuous stream of successful product and service improvements, innovations, adaptations, and extensions.

As you read this article, I hope you will be inspired to take those small steps of action to a productive end goal.  While you will not feel a sense that things are “finished” or things are “perfect,” I think that is the idea.

I would love to hear your thoughts and challenges and learn together as our organizations innovate!

Questions or comments? Please contact Jennifer Nietz at