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Archive for January, 2013

10 Elements of Continuous Improvement Infrastructure

January 31st, 2013 2 comments

The dramatic changes of the Great Recession have left many starting over.  Continuous Improvement programs are being rebuilt, reconstituted and revitalized.  The people, knowledge and leadership are critical elements but an important lesson we learned over the last 15 years of helping our clients is that the success of a Continuous Improvement program is highly dependent on its infrastructure.   So whether you are staring over or just starting, very early in the deployment, you must implement the following:

  1. Launch Planning; Establish the schedules and activity tracking/reporting techniques
  2. Human Resource Guidelines; Establish competency models and participant selection, position and role descriptions, compensation, reporting relationships, career planning.
  3. Communication Plan; Create an overall message for the implementation.  Provide clear reason why the adoption of the program makes business sense by explaining how it aligns to the Company’s strategic vision and each individual’s success.
  4. Financial Guidelines and Responsibilities; Agree upon financial definitions, project forecasting requirements, methods of evaluation, realization tracking and reporting process. Agree how the financial arm of the organization will be involved.
  5. Project Selection and Prioritization Guidelines; Recognize and define criteria, project type categorizations, problem statement and objective criteria, targeted savings values, approval process, completion requirements that collectively are to be used to rank and rate projects.
  6. Establish a Project Pipeline; Go beyond selection, ranking and rating criteria to outline how ideas for new projects will be gathered, converted to projects, ranked, rated and assigned.  A pipeline of worthwhile projects is imperative to maintaining a program’s momentum.
  7. Project Tracking and Reporting; Organize report requirements, systems and initial reports.
  8. Information Technology Support; Software installations, computer needs, Intranet development, databases for final reports.
  9. Management Review; Ensure constant measurement, feedback, and reporting on key deployment metrics to all stakeholders to ensure deployment objectives are met.
  10. Commence and Maintain Executive Training; Whether you want to think of it as part of infrastructure or as a separate item for organizations that are ready, upfront executive training is imperative.  You can’t allow the CI program to be something to which leaders aren’t aware, engaged and committed.  The training should go beyond “overview” training.  It should layout executive’s responsibilities and how they are to engage.  It should also explain what benefits the executives will accrue – what is in it for them.  Make sure the training emphasizes the benefits of aligning improvement activities to their business goals – the things that really matter to the business.

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 our latest executive brief, 10 Essential Do’s and Don’ts for a Six Sigma Deployment

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To date, we have discussed many things important to a CI initiative from good knowledge transfer methodology to project alignment.  But to attain real long term success, make sure you have a good infrastructure.  Think of it like the barrel of a gun.  It will ensure the program takes a straight line to its target.  If you would like to discuss how to build your infrastructure and ensure your program’s success, contact me.

What Can Yellow Belts Do … Really?

January 29th, 2013 Comments off

Yellow Belt TrainingAs a followup to my recent post titled Trained Yellow Belts Think Differently, I thought I would spend a little time talking about what yellow belts can actually DO.

In a traditional six sigma deployment, yellow belts play a critical role in supporting higher level black belt and green belt projects.  They are trained in the foundation of the DMAIC problem solving process and can speak the language of Six Sigma.  They can handle some of the lower level tasks of process mapping, data collection, setting up measurement systems, establishing and maintaining control systems , and may actually be subject matter experts. Basically, they allow the black belts and green belts to focus on the more complex analytical aspects of the project.  If yellow belts are used effectively, they can improve the productivity of black belts and green belts in a BIG way.

BUT, what can they do outside of supporting higher level belts?   What if you don’t even have higher level belts?  What can a yellow belt trained employee do for the organization?

Six Sigma purists might argue that Yellow Belts should not be trained, without Black Belts and Green Belts, and that their role is to support higher level belts.  I don’t agree with this at all.   Again, I have to hedge by saying that I’m talking about the level of capability that yellow belts trained by SSQ have (i.e. 4-5 days of training).   So, what can Mr. Yellow Belt do?

  • Characterize Processes.  Process mapping and characterization is a skill that should not be taken lightly.  All too often,  improvements are made to processes when we don’t know how the current process really operates, the current state.  These so-called improvements, in many cases, add unnecessary complexity and create more problems than they fixed.  We call this tampering and it is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.  A great example of where process characterization is an invaluable skill is with large-scale enterprise software implementations.   It seems common sense that we should understand exactly how a process works before we try to systemize/automate with software, right?  How often is there really a focused effort to characterize and optimize processes?   I would argue not enough of the time and this is readily apparent in the big $’s spent on configuration, customization, tweaks, etc.
  • Establish/validate measurement systems. Yellow belts learn the basics of Six Sigma and its focus on using data to understand problems and get to the root cause.  The learn the basics of what makes a good measurement system, and what does not.    The can certainly help establish measurement and data collection systems that are actionable, and validate (or invalidate) existing ones.
  • Establish Process Control Systems.  This is a key yellow belt skillset and its importance should not be overlooked.  Yellow belts learn how to set up process control systems to assure that processes function as expected by the customer.  Spec limits are establish, as are response plans when an indicator goes out of control
  • Execute small scale improvement projects in their own areas.   Will they have the deep statistical analysis skills that well-trained green belts or black belts have?  No, they will not.  But they will have a solid problem solving foundation around DMAIC and they will have a working knowledge of the basic tools in D-M-A-I-C.  They know what a well scoped project looks like, they know the basic measure and analyze graphical tools, they know how to use a structured approach to select improvements, and they definitely know about process control systems.   Let’s not lose site of the fact that these basic tools will likely be sufficient to address a significant portion of the process problems you’ll face.

Some may think of Yellow Belts as team members, data collectors, or assistants to Black Belts.  I strongly question this view and think, in reality, a Yellow Belt’s role should be much deeper than that.  Yellow Belts practice a Process Management approach (control and manage processes using metrics and data) and can solve real business problems using basic, but proven, quality tools and a systematic approach.

Yellow belt skills are valuable at any level of the organization, from managers to the lowest level process operators, and the processes they improve are usually the ones they work in day in and day out.  Many years back the term daily process management was in vogue.  The term has certainly faded a bit, but it’s hard to argue against the value of actively managing and improving processes on a daily basis.

Contact me if you’d like to talk about how yellow belts might be able to help your organization.  And, if you haven’t already, download our yellow belt training manual to see for yourself the rich skillset a yellow belt acquires.

Michelangelo’s Principles of Design Thinking

January 27th, 2013 Comments off

Perfect Design?

Some time ago, I read an article about great art and artists.  The author recited a lengthy list of what constitutes great art.  As I read it, I thought about how his arguments applied to industrial design as easily as they did to the Renaissance.  Recently, I’ve been engaged on service design problems and I decided to write down as much as I could remember from the article as principles by which to work on these engagements.  Here are the principles I documented:

1. Simplicity of Design is Clarity of Purpose.  So often, I look at a product or service packed with functions or features and walk away without bothering to learn to use it.   You would think the default would be the simple version but when people try to get creative, they somehow feel packing more into an essay, a painting or a product makes it better.  It doesn’t   Often, it simply masks the work has no real purpose.

2. The Best Designs Can’t Be Improved Upon. Imagine a math proof with either a mistake or that is overly complex.  In time, it will be improved upon and erased from the text books.  Imagine doing something so well that you leave no room for improvement. Similarly, imagine designing a house or piece of equipment that is as comfortable or useful today as it was five hundred years ago.  Won’t it be as comfortable five hundred years from now?

3. Design Starts with Defining the Right Problem. Developing the right solution for the right problem are two design problems in one.  You are better off making sure you’ve properly defined the problem before working on a solution.  Imagine if Columbus had designed a ship capable of dealing with the end of the earth?  Obviously, Columbus redefined his problem.

4. Getting Design Right is Hard Even Though It Looks Easy.  This one is really important…especially when you juxtapose it with #1 above.  Sometimes you look at a product or service that has been elegantly designed and think – so simple, I could have done that.  Well, you probably couldn’t because it was really hard.  Imagine the simplicity of the light-bulb  yet it took Bell 1,000 attempts which he called “steps”.  Each failure is a step forward.  But there are many failures before there is success.  It is hard even if the final product is such a perfect answer that it appears to have been obvious.

5. Nature reflects the Greatest Designs.  Look around at nature.  It is especially well designed.  A trout is perfectly designed to thrive in a cold mountain stream feeding on a bustling colony of insects which in turn are perfectly designed to live between the rocks of the same stream.  Good designers copy nature.  And their work product is often described as “natural”.  One of nature’s more relaxing elements is symmetry and repetition.  Gardens are more peaceful when you don’t have one of everything but repeat patterns of colors and plants.  Isn’t there an amazing elegance to a DNA strand?

6. Treat All Your Designs as If They Were a Mistake…And You Knew It Would Be.  In other words, do it over because you’ll do it better.  In doing so, you’ll look for your mistakes and try to correct them.  That is the hard work part of it.  And since no one sees every iteration of your design, they think it was easy.  I think recognizing you can always do better is what is particularly scary about being a parent – there really isn’t a second chance.  And since you know you’ll make mistakes, you just hope your children will one day forgive you.

 

Download PPT on Design Basics

 

7. A Great Design Can Be Really Scary.  More than likely, a great design so redefined the problem that the new solution won’t look anything like what current solutions look like today.  We can see today’s post-secondary education model is broken.  What will it look like in 20 years?  Would anyone in the ‘60’s have believed you if you told them that to get their news and information, they’d be reading digital content written by ordinary citizens in place of listening to Walter Cronkite?

8. To Design Well, Seek Collaboration…and Competition.  Something happens beyond ourselves when we are with each other.  It happens whether we are working together or competing.  Humans drive each other to excel.  That is why cities are so creatively vibrant. They explode with both collaboration and competition.  It is why you see two rivals push each other to excellence in sports…whether they are on the same or rival teams.  To design well, commune.

I hope my engagements yield great solutions for my clients.  I hope I help them see ways of satisfying their customers and stakeholders they’d never thought.  I hope these principles help me get them there.  Feel free to send me your’s.

Lean Management System – The Key to Sustainability

January 24th, 2013 2 comments

Lean Management System is the Key

Lean has wonderful elements.  Two important ones about which we have written on many occasions are that lean projects can be implemented quickly and the tools can be disseminated broadly within your employee population. The result is that you can get traction and a payback the organization can see and measure.  Every level of management and line personnel love those properties.

But like any sort of change initiative, it is still difficult to get true cultural change.  In other words, just because it can be more easily understood and applied more easily than say Six Sigma and the payback is shorter, doesn’t mean its guaranteed to be successful.  Implementation and sustainability are quite different. So how can it be done?

Well let’s first define how sustainability appears.  A lean culture of continuous improvement is characterized by:

  • Daily Application – Ability to apply the tools to improve operational performance on a daily basis
  • Proper Application – Knowledge of where to apply the tools, or a process for continuously refocusing on problems and opportunities.
  • Demonstrated Successes – Extensive knowledge of, and success with, the tools.

To achieve this, organizations need a change model.  It should be a structured process for achieving the discipline and focus needed for any successful change. This process is a Lean Management System, which doesn’t guarantee lean success, but build the foundation skills.

A lean management system is focused on work groups of five to ten people. It provides an integrated set of planning, measurement and problem solving tools to help the work group:

  • Focus on daily performance measurement and improvement
  • Improve effectiveness of supervisory communication
  • Solicit and evaluate employee improvement ideas
  • Assess lean status and define improvement objectives

A Lean Management System is meant to build the new “habits” necessary to develop a culture of continuous improvement with four key elements:

  1. Primary Visual Display (PVD) serves as a central communication point for a work group. The work group members themselves maintain performance metrics, schedules and improvement actions.
  2. Huddles of ten minutes in length which serve as a meeting place to review performance to date, communicate critical next steps, plan progress and solicit solutions to problems.
  3. Performance Metrics which are essential to instill the discipline necessary for standard work and other lean practices to be sustained.
  4. Kaizen Events structured to systematically collect and evaluate employee improvement.  Kaizen events provide a process to capture the ideas, evaluate them and ultimately implement them for operational improvement.

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A Lean Management System seeks to build new work habits.  And, like any new habit-building program, it must be practiced diligently until the new processes gradually become “business as usual.”  Day-to-day, hands-on coaching of work groups and team leaders is essential to ensure acceptance. Initially this is accomplished through process compliance, but ultimately through knowledgeable use of the tools.  And finally, through a deep enough understanding that you achieve process innovation.

A lean management system is focused on improving work group performance.  It is part of a broad-based lean deployment, not a substitute for value stream mapping, kaizen events and other methods to identify and implement lean improvements. Think of a lean management system as the glue that will hold lean improvements in place and gradually broaden the application of lean tools within your organization.
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A lean management system must be linked to higher-level operational management activities within an organization to ensure seamless communication of expectations, feedback on results and review of improvement ideas. As teams and organizations gain experience with a lean management system, work groups become more empowered and the freedom to act increases dramatically. A lean management system will help bind lean changes to the process and build lean thinking into the culture at the intact work group level. A lean management system is the missing link to a achieving a lean culture.  A lean management system is the missing link to a achieving a lean culture.  If you wish to discuss this post, feel free to contact me.

Business Process Management (BPM) – Process Stability as a Prerequisite to Process Improvement

January 22nd, 2013 Comments off

Stability Provides Predictability

After a long business cycle that saw the creation and expansion of performance improvement programs, we have undergone tremendous change that has forced every initiative at every company to re-evaluate its goals and validate its existence.  At some companies, continuous improvement has been repatriated to operations.  At others, it has mistakenly been eliminated and will undoubtedly have to reconstitute at a later date. And for a lucky few, economic changes are providing an opportunity to start for the first time or reorient their efforts to contribute to a new set of challenges.

Those that seek to prosper in the new normal get excited by the prospect of implementing or applying a responsive system that offers such promise. It is a pretty appealing prospect and there are a number of books that paint this picture as attainable using a variety of methodologies (i.e. Lean, Six Sigma, etc).  The challenge is that with all the turmoil of the last several years few have the infrastructure needed to really identify or sustain high value improvements, and this presents a major dilemma.

So, how can you overcome this dilemma? If you want to implement any improvement methodologies effectively, there are some pre-requisites must exist, possibly even before you attempt your first improvement project.  You can’t put an improvement in place if staff doesn’t follow standard work in a disciplined way – improvements rely on control to actualize the planned benefit.

The very arguments that support the exciting prospects of improvement methodologies often neglect to mention these issues, perhaps because they assume that the desire to improve makes you “ready”.   But sometimes that’s not the case and you must build a foundation before you try to put up the building.  The term that’s normally used for being “ready” is Basic Stability. It means that you can pretty much rely on your people and equipment to do what they are supposed to do, and you have a way (i.e. metrics) to verify.  Basic Stability usually involves establishing (or re-establishing) standard work processes and key process metrics.  Everything need not be perfect, but operations should repeat in a consistent manner or any change will soon be lost and thus the effort will prove to have been worthless.
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Download “BPM – A Structured Approach to Delivering Customer Value”

A good Business Process Management (BPM) program establishes the cornerstones of repeatability and thus Basic Stability.  Along with establishing alignment and cross-functional thinking, it  identifies and characterizes processes, identifies data sources, identifies key metrics, and provides for process analysis and control.  If this is in place, soon enough you will get to the place from which you can make those improvements and have them stick.

And, the good news is that establishing a foundation Business Process Management (BPM) does not have to be overly expensive or resource-consuming.  See more about our BPM approach with our complimentary power point download or contact me directly if you want to discuss.

Dr. King’s Words For Operational Excellence

January 20th, 2013 2 comments

Martin Luther King was a religious and political leader.  This is neither a religious nor political blog.  But work and morality are inextricably linked.  Consider Shakerism’s belief in efficiency and hard work. Think how Shaker furniture personifies their morality.  Their work methods were their ethics.  How you think about work is a moral issue.  What you produce is a reflection of your morals.  So arguably Operational Excellence, which is a system by which you work, reflects a set of ethics by which to express your morals about work.
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So with that framework in mind, on this day of celebration of his civil rights accomplishments, let us look at how Martin Luther King’s words address our work.

Excellence

“He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lives a great street-sweeper who did his job well’.”

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence”

“Whatever you life’s work is, do it well.  A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead and the unborn could do it no better.”

“Whatever effects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

Change & Improvement

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

“All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.”

Align Activities to Goals

Leadership

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”

“I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.”

Education & Thought

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.”

“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than to have to think.”

There is morality in our work. There are ethics in how we accomplish it.  There is value in looking to how men and women the likes of Martin Luther King speak to morality and ethics including how their words reflect upon our work.  Please let me know your thoughts by contacting me.

Economically Delivering the Right Mix of Lean, Six Sigma and Business Process Management

January 17th, 2013 Comments off

The Right Mix

My colleagues and I have written about this subject from several angles I want to start bringing it togetter.  In my post On Demand Performance Improvement  and Lynn Monkelien’s, Senior Director of Enterprise Learning at the Apollo Group and SSQ guest blogger, post entitled Pull Learning in Business Process and Performance Improvement we discussed how to break the paradigm of training inefficiencies.  This was further supported in my white paper entitled On Demand Performance Improvemnt – Traditional Training Meets Social Media which is available on our website’s home page in the “spotlight” section.  Then my colleague, Eric Harris wrote Back to Basics where he introduced the various foundation aspects of Yellow Belt, Lean and Business Process Management.   Since then there have been numerous posts on each of these subjects.

Together we are all describing a new training paradigm that is emerging where with our clients we not only making better use of technology and social media standards but also of a contemporary and robust library of materials and broad capability of personnel to meet the contemporary needs of organizations.  Specifically, with so much pressure on costs and the limited availability of company personnel’s time, it’s not surprising that most companies are looking hard at how and what they delivery to their workforce.  The key is to define what is needed… nothing more and nothing less…in terms of both content and exposure.  And that is done by matching the depth of training to the problems the organization seeks to address and putting the information into the users hands in as many low cost forms as possible as close to the actual application as possible.

And here are some questions to ask when considering how to get the chosen information to the user:

* What sort of time is available from the targeted personnel? Can they spend a day in a classroom or is thier time limited to hours per day or per week? Will targeted candidates be in different locations or at one facility?

* Do you know exactly what thier problems require or will it evolve over time?

* Are they comfortable with technology and social media?

Overview of SIPOC & a 12-step process to build one

Here are some factors to consider when asking what training and coaching is needed:

* Are you addressing manufacturing, engineering or transactional processes?  In factories and laboratories where much of the improvement activity may focus on equipment, techniques such as Gauge R&R, Process Capability, Setup Reduction, Total Productive Maintenance and perhaps even Design of Experiments are invaluable.  But in transactional businesses, they can be substituted with more impactful subjects.

* Are you dealing with high-volume repetitive processes?  Much of the Lean training can be simplified and reduced if you are not.  Value Stream Mapping, for example, can be covered at a more general level.

* What is the objective and the environment?  Are you attempting to remove defects or reduce cycle time?  If you seek to reduce errors in a financial services company, the focus is on process analysis so Pareto Charts, Run Charts and the like, which are quick and easy to teach, become the focus.

The point is that you have choices.  You can follow a fairly standardized prescription for Lean Six Sigma training as described through the classic belt definitions or you can tailor your training to unique needs.  At the same time, you can perform standard instructor lead training or you can use various communication tools that leverage technologies and social media standards.

I have one note of caution –if you cut the content or instructor interaction too far, the price for the mistake doesn’t immediately show itself during the training.  Problems evidence themselves once the training is well underway or completed.  And the problems might be that projects get delayed, more coaching is needed to complete high value projects or certified candidates fail in follow-on projects.  The result is a general loss of confidence emerges for the whole process.  By the time you discover your mistake, the effort is deemed a failure.  We don’t say this to scare you into overbuying or overdesigning.  We believe the answer is to monitor the situation closely and maintain flexibility in both the training and support.  It is in this reaction time that modular content and flexible, technology enabled support tools and methods really make a difference.

If you would like to discuss this emerging model, contact me.

VOC to Process Improvement to Innovation – The Round Trip

January 15th, 2013 Comments off

Roundtrip to Innovation

I’ve written dozens of articles about VOC, Process Improvement and Innovation on this blog.  Most have dealt with those subjects in isolation.  A few have related them to each other.   Really, I should have been discussing the entirety of the system more for the development of each is limited without the development of all.

This became apparent to me when I found a blog post where a portion of the post tied the three together so well I felt compelled to share it with you.  Specifically, it is written by Bradley (Woody) Bendle and it is posted on www.bx.businessweek.com.  The link to the specific post is as follows:

http://bx.businessweek.com/voice-of-the-customer/view?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.innovationexcellence.com%2Fblog%2F2012%2F09%2F17%2Fyour-consumers-are-valuable-not-fickle%2F

The blog post is entitled “Your Customers are Valuable – Not Fickle!” back in September 2012 and the portion that really hit me is shown below –

The great recession has profoundly changed the consumer, and it is highly unlikely that they will return to the behaviors and patterns of yesteryear. Many experts feel there is now a “new consumer normal” that is very different from what we had experienced in the past. In a recent Forbes.com article, Pam Goodfellow from BigInsight asserts that “the clear turning post for consumer behavior during the last decade came with the ‘Great Recession.’ Shoppers went from ‘spend now, worry later’ to an ‘abort spending, worry, worry, worry’ mindset.” The folks from the Future’s Company additionally provide their own perspective about this era of the new normal. “Consumers everywhere … are working from a new orientation about what they want and how they buy… [They] are now battle hardened, having found ways to survive and even thrive on the new opportunities a more competitive market has yielded.”

I think nearly all of us can relate to this “new normal” consumer mindset on some personal level. Who hasn’t had to make adjustments in their consumption over the past several years? If so many of us have had to make our own (sometimes pretty significant) adjustments, why aren’t we seeing more significant changes in how many existing businesses go to market?

There are a number of great books that provide valuable insightful about this phenomenon (e.g., Leading The Revolution by Gary Hamel, The Reinventors by Jason Jennings, Brand Relevance by David Aaker and Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators by Govindarajan and Trimble) to name a few that I highly recommend. And while these books address a range of topics with fabulous expertise, you can essentially boil their key underlying insights to the following two things.

1) Deeply understand you customer’s needs, and
2) Continually innovate.

We all need to face the fact that success is no longer guaranteed for those simply committed to “getting better” at what they know how to do. Twenty and thirty years ago, process improvement and cost containment could make one a titan within their industry. Those days are pretty much gone for good; much in the same way that today’s consumer will never be the same as yesterday’s consumer. 

A PowerPoint framework for a VOC maturity model

I just want to emphasize that VOC, Process Improvement and Innovation are intricately linked. They are not separate topics.  They aren’t implemented without thought to the other two.  You can’t get customers to give you their preferences and work with you on iterations of a product or service if they don’t see value in what you do for them.  You can’t have that sort of relationship if your processes aren’t delivering on your stated promises. And without the trust built by meeting those current promises, you can’t innovate new products and services as they will never be accepted.  VOC, Process Improvement and Innovation. They are the Trifecta.  Contact me if you wish to discuss this post.

Mayhem – The Case for Business Process Management

January 11th, 2013 Comments off

Needs a Process!

Companies often deny they have a process or admit they don’t follow the processes they’ve developed.   In today’s economic environment, many attribute this behavior to a lack of resources.  Oddly enough, this behavior and explanation often comes from professionals that know the cost of not establishing or following processes.  Leaders have created a seemingly endless list of reasons for dismantling process efforts and eliminating process improvement projects.  Let’s examine those reasons and how to respond to them:

Reason No. 1: “I can’t do just a couple of processes. I’ve got to improve them all, and I’ll never get that done.“

Response: Concentrate first and foremost on the processes that touch the customer.

 

Reason No. 2: “Process improvement takes too long. “

Response: Not every process requires the same level of resources or attention to build, design or repair.  And not every process carries the same importance.  Also, most processes can be fixed or redesigned in weeks, and some should be finished in days.  Pick the ones that provide the most juice for the squeeze.  Get them 80 percent right and get it done. Resort and prioritize frequently.  You eat an elephant a bite at a time.

 

Reason No. 3: “All processes require a blank-sheet approach to redesign. “

Response: Not true. Some portion of the process can always be salvaged and reused in the new version.

 

Reason No. 4: “Modeling my process is complicated and it won’t get me anywhere. “

Response: Software is available to perform modeling and save hours of frustrations. It runs the process in the confines of the computer before it’s unleashed on the organization.

 

 

A basic view of BPM and a three step approach to implementation.

 

Reason No. 5: “We don’t need to spend time understanding the current process. I already know what the new process needs to look like. “

Response: Take the time to understand the current environment. This is by far the best technique for ensuring a smooth transition to the future.

 

Reason No. 6: “We’ve already improved our processes. “

Response: Process improvement is never done.  It is constantly on-going as people, technologies, customer requirements and competitor offerings change.

 

The point of this discussion is that if your company has responded to profit pressures by dismantling its process management and improvement efforts in favor of simply responding to immediate needs, you must revive mission before the undeniable problems come home to roost.  In restarting, reviving or keeping such efforts alive, adjust to the realities of our new economic environment.  Reduce what is being done to the available resources and focus on the customer.  Then continue to make the business case and document the ROI\ which reminding what has happened in the past when these efforts have been abandoned.  The case is as strong now for process improvement as its ever been.

If you would like to see how SSQ recommends its clients hone in on what is important and ensures a high ROI on the efforts, either download our slide presentation on BPM or contact me.

Drive Results by Managing Outcomes through Networked Teams

January 8th, 2013 Comments off

The field of Operational Excellence, including Six Sigma Qualtec, has often laid out the case that you drive improvement by properly chartering projects aimed at performance gaps. The performance gaps are chosen by looking at enterprise level value streams’ ability to meet critical requirements laid out by various voices important to the organization. The challenge is often to overcome functional silos. Cross functional teams are formed to overcome that challenge. To progress, the conflict which must be resolved is often resolving the white space between functional responsibilities.

But there is a third axis. What if instead of trying to reconcile the differences between value streams and functional areas, the real challenge was to marshal the energies of existing networks of personnel.

The concept of organizational networks has grown by leaps and bounds. It has happened for a variety of reasons. Our general understanding, and probably more importantly our level of comfort, with our lives being dependent on networks has probably been one of the most important reasons. On a personal level, we manage a networked life with Facebook. Professionally, we do the same with LinkedIn. Organizationally, we’ve increasingly dealt with the concept as we outsource more shared services, expand and contract supply chains, use more contractors and manage activities with cloud based solutions. We live and manage networks.

How then does the concept of networks impact our ability to improve processes? Well, they are as important to understand as value streams, processes and functional areas. And in many ways, it is networks that get projects and initiatives successfully completed as much, if not more so, than functional areas. The challenge therefore isn’t to build a project team cross-functionally but to do so with the right support of critical networks.

A basic view of BPM and a three step approach to implementation.

Networks aren’t invisible as much as they aren’t tracked. They can be identified with organizational network analysis. I suggest you look at the work done by Rob Cross, a faculty member the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia to see the basic elements of identifying networks in your organization.

Once you understand your networks and they touch critical improvement projects, we suggest managing desired outcomes by holding elements of the network accountable for milestones. Naming and using cross-functional teams can still be effective if the people chosen from the various functional areas are well connected within the critical networks.

I may be tossing out some ideas that might seem to muddy the waters. Do we really need to introduce one more axis into how we successfully execute projects? We know these networks exist. We know processes produce outcomes and people reside in functional areas. We know to

fix problems we must execute projects within processes that cut across functions. And to execute the projects we must have cross functional teams. But to ignore that networks get things done simply because they are messy or not shown on an organizational chart isn’t a good way to go. We need to tap into the networks to get projects done. Ensure team members are well networked and then manage the outcomes of the network through those individuals. Recognize and leverage how things get done.

If you wish to discuss these points, feel free to contact me.