PrintThis post isn’t about cycling (though cycling lends itself beautifully to the technique outlined below).

This fall I co-led six Rapid Cycle Improvement teams in local public schools. The focus was on improving attendance for students who chronically miss school. The reasons kids don’t come to school are widely varied. Research suggests the solution lies in a combination of tailored interventions that address individual circumstances, and, a culture of attendance so students want to be at school. With Rapid Cycle Improvement, school teams measure the impact of interventions taken to help individual students. Every four- to five-weeks, teams study a new batch of data, using it to inform the next cycle and decide on the next small test of change. Through Rapid Cycle, teams are able to speed up learning and sustain momentum.

What an elegant way to engage school professionals, run fast experiments and let data tell the story of what works and what doesn’t.

In mid-November I decided to run a cycle for my business. I’m known for listening well, connecting dots, thinking creatively and drawing the best out of individuals and groups. Since refining my business model, however, I must back track to build awareness. In my niche as a thought partner and design thinker, building awareness requires conversations with executives and advisers about when and why to bring me to the table.

Rapid Cycle Improvement isn’t the exclusive purview of Lean Six Sigma professionals. It’s a simple, easy-to-use tool that packs punch while engendering focus, discipline, pragmatic mapping and visual learning. So I opened a Rapid Cycle Improvement tool on my computer. I defined my objective and test population. I set predictions for quality, quantity and ultimate outcome. I set up dates for starting and ending my experiment and jotted the steps I’d need to take. Forty-five minutes and a half page later, I had my Rapid Cycle Improvement plan.

One of my great teachers said the key to getting results when trying something new is to build a structure and then insert yourself into it. Through application, his students discovered how well this approach works for dieting, exercise, life planning, any new endeavor. Rapid Cycle Improvement is one such structure.