The Mental Well-Being of Colleagues and Continuous Improvement Culture -- Are They Intertwined and Mutually Reinforcing?

At the beginning of June, Chris Butterworth published a new book entitled Why Care? How Thriving Individuals Create Thriving Cultures of Continuous Improvement Within Organizations, which contends that to create a sustainable culture of continuous improvement there must be an organization-wide focus on mental well-being at the individual level. A culture of continuous improvement nurtured in the right way, however, will indeed support mental well-being and help create a thriving organization.

When I recently spoke with Chris about his book, I asked him: "How are mental well-being and a culture of continuous improvement intertwined and mutually reinforcing with an organization?" Here is his complete answer:

Today’s ever-increasing VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) environment means that organizations must be more adaptable and flexible than ever.  Organizational performance depends on the collective psychological capacity (emotional and cognitive energy) of everyone in the organization.  Without high levels of mental, or psychological, well-being individuals suffer, organizational performance is stifled and continuous improvement (CI) is throttled.

Creating high levels of mental, or psychological, well-being means starting with an inside-out perspective focused on mental well-being at an individual level.  Like the nucleus of an atom, high levels of individual psychological well-being unleash psychological capacity. This precious resource is critical for people to be able to do their work effectively and continuously improve their work. It provides the organization with the energy and agility to prosper. 

However, individual psychological well-being is not enough on its own.  High levels of psychological well-being without a robust CI system limit people’s potential to fully utilize their psychological capacity. Both systems are essential to a thriving organization. Psychological well-being and CI working together create a thriving high-performance environment, where individuals feel they matter, are cared for, and can grow and develop.  Together they create environments where teams can solve problems, innovate, adapt, and grow generating sustainable organizational success. In our book Why Care? we explore how to do this at different levels – individual, team, leader, and organizational and the foundations needed, such as diversity, equality, inclusion, belonging, and an understanding of the brain.

The CI system must be co-designed to leverage the available psychological capacity of everyone in the organization.  In Why Care? we illustrate how the CI system and tools can be reorientated to engender and maximize psychological well-being and how continuously improving work also increases levels of psychological well-being.  Not only are the two intertwined but they are mutually reinforcing.  We believe this is not just a nice thing to do. It is critical to the future of every organization and its people.

Do you agree with Chris' statements? Does your continuous improvement initiative include the psychological capacity of colleagues?