The KARAF model & process for continuous improvement and excellence
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The KARAF model & process for continuous improvement and excellence
Peter Blokland, Member, Consultant, Belgium
The model indicates the needed and sufficient conditions to improve. The proces shows how.
The KARAF® model
This model is a universal model which can be used to improve anything or anyone. It describes the necessary and sufficient conditions that have to be met in order to improve. In total there are seven conditions that form systemic loops, which will allow improvement when applied.
The first two conditions, which act on a higher level of importance, are in fact attitude and reality. These are two conditions that will influence the five underlying conditions, who will provide the actual improvement. These five underlying conditions are Knowledge, Action, Results, Analysis and Feedback. Together they form the acronym KARAF®. In this acronym you can relate Attitude to Action and Reality to Results. Results are always a part of reality and also the way action is taken, is the attitude with which one acts. Both conditions are of the utmost importance in this model. It is how the human factor is linked with improvement.
The importance of the factors attitude and reality cannot be overrated.
As shown in the model, the conditions attitude and reality operate on a different level. In the model, this is illustrated by the ring that connects all of the underlying conditions. These are the elements to be looked at first, if improvement is to take place.
As the model is recursive, you can use it for the improvement of its own elements. Knowledge of reality is nothing more than the quality of perception. When acting to get a better understanding of reality, it is in fact improving the quality of perception. The loop which links attitude and reality will then also influence the factor ‘attitude’ in a reinforcing way.
Analysing the results of this process and feeding back what is discovered into a higher quality of perception will provide a first and very important improvement. Once attitude and reality are such that the perception reveals the need for improvement, the improvement process itself can start by filling in the remaining conditions in a closed loop system, as the model indicates.
Figure 1 The KARAF model
The model is a toolbox, which can be packed with a wide variety of tools, each time differently, depending on what is required to obtain improvement. The model is just like a carafe. Each time it can be (re)filled and used. The model stays the same, but the content can vary and can be adapted to the task at hand. Therefore, the model is universal in space and time. The KARAF® model is similar to a "black hole". It is a magnet for – and absorbs – all other "improvement" and "excellence" knowledge.
The model is not the (re)invention of "hot water" or "the wheel". It is much more the knowledge that warm water can be obtained in different ways and that there are many different kind of wheels, each adapted to the task to fulfil. Therefore, the KARAF® model looks for the most appropriate "wheel" to use, and put it to work properly. As a result, the model can be a "perpetuum mobile" of improvement for each individual or organisation.
Although any step of the process is a possible entry, the normal sequence would be to increase the quality of perception first and then look for the appropriate knowledge.
Knowledge has to be considered in the broad sense of the word. It incorporates academic as well as empiric knowledge, conscience as well as unconscious aptitudes. Acquiring the appropriate knowledge, adapted to what needs to be improved, is a first condition to be met in achieving improvement. Looking for the appropriate knowledge and a better use of knowledge already available, will therefore be paramount.
Action comprises everything that is related to what one does or refrains from doing. Not only what we do or don’t, but also how we act and with which attitude we tackle things, is an important area of influence on performance. To act with the right attitude is a second condition that has to be fulfilled. Knowledge remains without effect, if the condition of action is not met.
Results is the part of the model which focuses on the consequences of our endeavours. A correct depiction of the results and a profound understanding of reality is of the utmost importance to assess correctly these consequences. When this condition is not met, it is possible that the knowledge is not adapted to the situation and therefore the actions and attitudes can lead individuals and organisations in the wrong direction.
Analysis is a crucial part of the improvement process. It allows us to detect where improvement is necessary and possible. Analysis has to incorporate all elements of the model. With results and reality as a starting point, it is vital to check if knowledge, action & attitude, analysis itself and feedback are effective and efficient, and if they are tailored to the requirements. When this is not the case, it is difficult to attain a structured and continuous improvement process. Analysis, in any case, will lead towards new and extensive knowledge and expertise regarding the issue to be improved.
Without proper feedback, even a scrupulous analysis will become useless. Feedback, to some extent, is the collection of information coming from third parties. But this is not entirely true for KARAF. It indicates the integration of this and other knowledge, together with the know-how resulting from analysis, into our basic knowledge and abilities upon which improved actions and attitude will be based. Feedback makes sure that efforts to improve become effective improvements and it is needed to make these improvements lasting. Feedback closes the reinforcing loop of improvement, it’s feeding the whole process.
Everything and everyone, also and certainly organisations, can be improved by the KARAF® model when applied correctly. If improvement is not a result from the application of this model, some of the conditions have not been fulfilled and will need improvement.
This model can also be outlined in a process. It shows the systemic loops present in the model. In a way it’s similar to the Deming cycle. However it also incorporates the human factor into the improvement process explicitly, which makes it unique and universally employable.
Figure 2 The KARAF process
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