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Business Process and Performance Improvement – Strategic Initiatives to Tactical Actions?

March 8th, 2013 Comments off
For many companies, CI has has moved from a top-down strategic initiative to tactical activities focused on specific business problems

For many companies, CI has has moved from a top-down strategic initiative to tactical activities focused on specific business problems

I’ve written several articles that talked about how views on business process and performance improvement have changed over the last 3 years.   In the personal development world, there is a mantra that basically says that meaningful change comes only when the pain of not changing becomes greater than the pain associated with change. 

The economic downturn definitely created the pain that caused a lot of companies to change the way they look at their business, and at process and continuous improvement.  I see very few companies saying they want to launch a top-down, enterprise wide Six Sigma (or Lean or BPM) initiative, especially ones that focuses on investing big $’s on training and infrastructure up front.   Those days, for the most part, seem to be over and gone.  Certainly a big change from years past, but is it a bad thing?

Some purists might argue that it is a bad thing, that top-down, large scale change management and process improvement initiatives should be a fundamental part of any enterprise.  Theoretically, yes, but how many large-scale Six Sigma (or Lean or BPM) initiatives basically collapsed under their own weight in years past, after a great deal of money, time, and intellectual capital was spent?   A great many, I can assure you.  Why?   Well, I might argue that it’s because they took on a front-and-center life of their own, as initiatives, growing unbounded for the sake of the initiative when their place should have been in supporting the core value-generating processes of the business.

Download our short guide to project selection and definitiona short guide to project selection and definition.

I would argue that the change is not a bad thing, and was necessary to survive in this new normal.  Let’s think about where are we now?   Companies are lean and mean, operating in very much of a do-more-with-less mindset.  For many, big Six Sigma (or Lean or BPM) organizations have been disbanded.  Productivity is at record levels.  60 hour + work weeks are the norm for many.  But, you can only ask so much of your people for so long.   Sooner or later the business processes have to be looked at, right?

But, now, what I see is that many organizations are taking a very pragmatic and tactical approach to CI.  The competitive environment, the regulatory environment, or maybe even a very important customer is telling them EXACTLY where process problems are, and they are listening.  They then focus like a laser beam by identifying and rigorously defining good projects (see a recent article I wrote on the elements of good project definition) that solve real, specific business problems.  They then develop the process improvement skills in-house or work with a specialist partner to execute what are, by definition, high-impact improvement projects. No guesswork, no unnecessary overhead, no unnecessary infrastructure.

In essence, what I see is a fundamental shift from CI initiatives that are pushed into the enterprise to an environment where CI and process improvement are pulled in, as specifically needed by the business.  Of course, the pendulum has swung very far from the strategic to the tactical and the optimum is probably somewhere in the middle.  But, was this change a bad thing?   I think not.  I think it will serve to refocus CI on what really matters …. making the business more competitive and profitable in an ever-changing marketplace.

Feel free to contact me directly.  I’d like to hear your thoughts ….

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.

Where Process Improvement Projects Go Wrong

December 28th, 2012 Comments off

While doing some general Christmas reading I came across this June ’12 article in the Wall Street Journal’s on-line edition by Dr. Statya S. Chakravorty, the Caraustar professor of operations management at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University.  While we can debate how to improve the application of the methodology or make recommendations how to address the cited breakdowns, I think Dr. Chakravorty wrote a great article detailing many places a project or program can go off track which I wanted to share with you.  If you’d like to discuss Dr. Chakravorty’s article, contact me.

Where Process Improvement Projects Go Wrong by Dr. Statya S. Chakravorty

What do weight-loss plans and process-improvement programs such as Six Sigma and “lean manufacturing” have in common?

They typically start off well, generating excitement and great progress, but all too often fail to have a lasting impact as participants gradually lose motivation and fall back into old habits.

Many companies have embraced Six Sigma, a quality-control system designed to tackle problems such as production defects, and lean manufacturing, which aims to remove all processes that don’t add value to the final product. But many of those companies have come away less than happy. Recent studies, for example, suggest that nearly 60% of all corporate Six Sigma initiatives fail to yield the desire results.

We studied process-improvement programs at large companies over a five-year period to gain insight into how and why so many of them fail. We found that when confronted with increasing stress over time, these programs react in much the same way a metal spring does when it is pulled with increasing force—that is, they progress though “stretching” and “yielding” phases before failing entirely. In engineering, this is known as the “stress-strain curve,” and the length of each stage varies widely by material.

A closer look at the characteristics of improvement projects at each of the three stages of the stress-strain curve—stretching, yielding and failing—offers lessons for executives seeking to avoid Six Sigma failures. The discussion that follows is based on what happened at one aerospace company that implemented more than 100 improvement projects, only to determine less than two years later that more than half had failed to generate lasting gains.

Stretching Phase

When a metal spring is pulled initially, the material stretches to accommodate the increase in pressure. In much the same way, the people involved in a process-improvement project generally find themselves stretching and willing to tackle all necessary tasks in the early going.

At the aerospace company, an improvement project typically began with the formation of a team consisting of 10 to 18 members from various departments. A Six Sigma or other improvement expert was assigned to the team to guide and train them. At this stage, teams were excited to learn and apply what they were being taught.

Team members collected data on their current working environment and, with the help of the Six Sigma expert, identified the changes they most needed to make to achieve their stated goal—say, a reduction in the rate of defects in manufactured parts or fewer mistakes in order writing and billing. The expert developed a “to do” list that included action items, responsibilities and deadlines and made sure needed resources were available.

Because top executives were paying close attention to the project at this stage, managers made clear to employees that the improvement initiative was their top priority. For example, producing error-free bills became more important than processing a certain quantity of bills each day.

While daily production slipped initially when the team transitioned to the new way of working, it improved when the group grew accustomed to the new process. When the team reached its goal—say it reduced billing errors by a certain percentage—the improvement project was declared a success.

The director who was spearheading the company’s Six Sigma initiatives shared the teams’ achievements with others in the company. Team members were given rewards such as gift certificates to restaurants, and their pictures appeared in the company newsletter. The division vice president reported on the team’s success to the company’s other vice presidents and to its top executives.

Download “Project Selection and Definition – The Key to Getting Fast Results”

Yielding Phase

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.

If a metal spring continues to be pulled, there will come a point when the material yields as it struggles to support the increase in pressure. Though still intact, the spring becomes permanently deformed—stretched out, for example—as the bonds between atoms are broken and new ones formed.

Similarly, in the middle stage of an improvement project—when the Six Sigma expert moves on to another project and top management turns it focus to another group of workers—implementation starts to wobble, and teams may find themselves struggling to maintain the gains they achieved early on.

With the departure of the Six Sigma expert, the teams at the aerospace company lost their objective voice and the person who performed the sophisticated statistical analysis that allowed them to prioritize the tasks that most affected performance, thus needed fixing the most. Without the expert to rein them in, some team members began pushing agendas that benefited themselves and their departments, making it harder for the team to agree on new goals.

While teams at this stage continued to look for the flaws in their current working environments, they got bogged down trying to perform the statistical analysis previously handled by the expert. Some teams started spending too much time on the improvement project, which affected their ability to meet production quotas and other daily responsibilities.

Amid the confusion and facing pressure from managers to keep up with day-to-day duties, some team members started reverting to old habits in the much the same way a person who recently lost weight might start skipping gym sessions when work and family demands heat up. The team’s performance stopped improving and, in some cases, started to regress.

When reporting on the status of their projects, teams tried to make themselves look better by highlighting what they hoped to accomplish in the future, instead of what they were accomplishing now. Some team members became discouraged and started to doubt the benefits of the improvement strategies.

The improvement director, whose salary and bonus depended on the success of the company’s Six Sigma initiatives, highlighted projects that were showing great progress and ignored those that weren’t. As a result, company executives were unaware that some improvement teams were slowly starting to crack under the pressure.

Download “The Importance of Project Selection – Why Process Improvement Efforts Falter and How to Assure Success and Sustainability”

Failing Stage

Over time, pulling will cause the material in one area of the metal spring to narrow, creating a neck that becomes smaller and smaller until it is unable to sustain any pressure at all. At that point, it breaks into pieces. Similarly, in the final stage of a process-improvement project, team members find themselves unable or unwilling to tackle improvement tasks, and the effort ultimately collapses.

With the improvement expert long gone and no additional training in Six Sigma or other improvement strategies provided by the aerospace company, team members became increasingly discouraged by their failure to build on earlier success. They eventually stopped caring about the improvement project, partly because it wasn’t tied to their performance reviews.

As morale sagged, no one stepped forward to assume leadership of the improvement project, so the team lost interest in looking for ways to improve their current work environment. The company allowed newly formed improvement teams to poach people and resources from older teams, so the only improvements that were made were those related to safety—and even then, only the bare minimum was done. Members steadily regressed to their old ways of working, and the group’s performance returned to what it had been before the project began.

With projects failing miserably, many teams reported their achievements incorrectly, giving a false sense of success. Because the director continued to communicate only about projects that were showing excellent results, it took several months for the division vice president to become aware of the widespread failures and reluctantly inform the company’s top executives.

Lessons Learned

Four lessons from our research stand out.

First, the extended involvement of a Six Sigma or other improvement expert is required if teams are to remain motivated, continue learning and maintain gains. If the cost of assigning an improvement expert to each team on a full-time basis is prohibitive, one improvement expert could be assigned on a part-time basis to several teams for an extended period of one to two years. Later, managers could be trained to take over that role.

Second, performance appraisals need to be tied to successful implementation of improvement projects. Studies point out that raises, even in small amounts, can motivate team members to embrace new, better work practices. Without such incentives, employees often regress to their old ways of working once the initial enthusiasm for Six Sigma dies down.

Third, improvement teams should have no more than six to nine members, and the timeline for launching a project should be no longer than six to eight weeks. The bigger the team, the greater the chance members will have competing interests and the harder it will be for them to agree on goals, especially after the improvement expert has moved on to a new project. And the longer it takes to implement improvements, the greater the chance people and resources will be diverted to other efforts.

Fourth, executives need to directly participate in improvement projects, not just “support” them. Because it was in his best interests, the director in charge of the improvement projects at the aerospace company created the illusion that everything was great by communicating only about projects that were yielding excellent results. By observing the successes and failures of improvement programs firsthand, rather than relying on someone else’s interpretation, executives can make more accurate assessments as to which ones are worth continuing.

Six Sigma Methodology; Select Projects to Achieve Goals

December 11th, 2012 Comments off

It is the end of the year.  You look back and wonder where it went.  You look at your goals from a year ago and honestly face what a struggle it has been to move forward.  You believe they were and remain the right goals and yet execution is constantly hindered by the demands of daily chores.  How can you change it?

First, let’s face the fact that your enemy in achieving your goals is the daily cyclone of work.  Simply put, your goals and your daily work aren’t compatible.  And the daily work always wins because it is urgent.  You didn’t fall short on your goals because you’re stupid or lazy.  You were just busy.

It’s a new year.  How can you make it different?  Let’s start by redefining execution.  Execution is about achieving your goals while dealing with urgency of daily work. So how should your plan of execution change to deal with this reality?

Unless you are going to be a full time problem solver, you really can only focus on 1 or maybe 2 projects in addition to your daily work.  And since there are more good ideas than resources, learn to say “NO”.  And since there is only time for 1 or 2 projects, then you can only pursue that ones that significantly move the needle.  The little subprojects diffuse energy and should only be done if they ensure completion of the higher order project (and not simply align to it).

Our recommendation is to really pour your energy into your project selection decision matrix and pick the ideas that rank the absolute highest.

In addition, as you work on your projects, target moving the needle of a lead measure.  If you are in a process, don’t simply measure the output.  That is a lagging measure.  This sounds simple but is actually very difficult because lagging measures naturally get more attention and are supported with more data. Everyone wants to measure the result.

Our recommendation is to look at your process map and investigate upstream sub-processes for the most impactful items and then collect and target that data.

Finally, give your actions daily visibility with a compelling dashboard.  Make it simple.  Make it visible.  Show both the leading and the lagging indicators. Make sure that when you look at it you know if you are winning or losing against the urgency of daily work.  Winning begets winning.

Download

“The Importance of Project Selection – Why PI Efforts Falter & How to Assure Success”

Our recommendation is to have regular governance meetings to monitor all your teams’ progress on projects.  Have them set short term action items and report regularly on whether they have completed them or not.

So as you head into 2013, decide you will make this year different.  You will pick only the important projects.  You will target the leading measures.  You will make progress visible and hold yourself and team accountable for short term actions ensuring that progress.  You will fight back against the urgency of daily chores and move forward.  If you’d like to discuss, contact me.

Problem Statements – Five Why’s v. Five How’s

November 6th, 2012 2 comments

Problem statementUp and down the escalator you go through a store when shopping at the mall until you get to the level where your desired merchandise is listed on the map.  Such is the same for choosing a problem statement.

Usually, the first time you state a problem is just the beginning of finding the goal you really want to pursue.  So then, how to get to the right problem statement?  The first thing I’d recommend is to make sure your initial problem statement is neutral.  In other words, if as an example, you wish to improve field personnel billability in a services business, state the problem as the improving the billing of field personnel’s time.  Get rid of any buzzwords.

Then use the Five Why’s tool.  As you ask the Five Why’s, you naturally become broader in the problem statement. The advantage of broadening the question is that you create more options.  The risk when you do this is that you become as abstract as to pursue a problem for which you are resource constrained.  In other words, you simply can’t command the resources needed to solve that problem.  This is the classic case of “boiling the ocean”.

Now here is a twist you should try.  Go back to the original neutral problem statement and ask several How’s.  This has the opposite effect of the Five Why’s.  Instead of getting broader, it makes the problem statement more specific.  When you put together the statements for the Why’s and How’s you construct a hierarchy of possible problem statements.

Download Project Definition Powerpoint

a short Powerpoint on project selection and definition …

Why construct this hierarchy?  Well it gives you a range of alternatives and focuses you to think about the right choice.  You have many levels of specificity from which to choose.  So what is the right choice?  You want to choose a level that is high enough to leave you options which make a measureable impact on the problem area.  Yet, you need to stay low enough where you control, or have the ability to bring to bear, the resources needed to solve the problem.

Now these are just judgments so we recommend that when you apply those judgments, you stretch yourself. Go one level higher than you feel comfortable.  So I guess the recommendation is to get on the escalator and go up and down until you find a comfortable spot – then go up one!  If you wish to speak about this, I encourage you to reach out to me.

The Simple SIPOC – Start Here for Real Process Improvement …

August 6th, 2012 1 comment

SIPOC and Process ImprovementWe often see a client identifying an undesired result and assigning its correction to a process improvement person or a team. That person or team then begins to discuss the many potential causes of the undesired result and the potential resolutions. Some of the resolutions will be chosen as recommendations and submitted for implementation. It is then that the organization discovers the underlying complexity of (i) unseen subprocesses, actions and tasks, (ii) undefined customers and their requirements, (iii) undetected stakeholders to the process and (iv) inputs that were simply taken for granted. The proposed resolutions step into a series of swirling eddies from which they never emerge. Time passes and the company moves to new flash points with the problem unresolved or with just the resolutions that caused the least change implemented irrespective of a change in the undesired results. The cycle

simply repeats itself.

How do we avoid this? Well certainly we have talked in the past about the impact of a properly drafted problem statement and this post isn’t meant to take away from the volumes we have written and discussed about its importance. And we have also written how value stream mapping allows you to drive alignment both cross-functionally and between improvement activities and scorecard metrics so as to identify the most impactful potential improvements which can then be converted to a problem statement. And again, this post isn’t to diminish or undermine all our previous statements about the value of such an exercise to drive real process improvement.

But what about when your organization hasn’t felt the pain of a failed process improvement effort enough to recognize the importance of value stream mapping, problem statements and the many other tools used to frame a problem and its political landscape prior to commencing an improvement effort. Where then do you start? What is the first step you can take to gain the awareness of a failed improvement effort without having to go through all the pain of failing?

I recommend you start your process improvement efforts with a SIPOC. A SIPOC is so simple, and yet so valuable. And its simplicity shouldn’t be used to discredit because it can be as complex as one likes as well. But why a SIPOC?

Don’t Overlook the Simplicity and Power of a SIPOC as a Starting Point for Effective Process Improvement

Quite simply, a SIPOC provides an understanding of a process by easily identifying what activities take place in the process, who has a hand in producing the output, who receives the output and how all the various stakeholders measure success. Simply debating the start and stop points and the people involved avoids so many problems. The cross-functional nature of the processes causing the undesired effects immediately comes to light. All the customers and stakeholders are named. It thus helps to identify all elements of a project, which then goes into refining the project if it’s not well scoped.

Download SIPOC Overview an overview and 12-step process for creating powerful SIPOCs

Collectively, it builds the information to proceed with more detailed mapping & root cause analysis, if warranted and desired. And if you get a green light, the information in the SIPOC can be converted to value stream map.

The value of a SIPOC is the value from simple awareness. It is the value of not having to experience the pain of failure before going back and realizing you really do need to have a well defined problem statement and fundamental value stream maps at which point you can move to some data analysis to form hypothesis about root causes. So much value from this simple tool. If you’d like to discuss how to use a SIPOC to capture all this value, feel free to contact me at jlopezona@ssqi.com .

Selecting the Right Projects…Not too Hot but Not too Cold…Just Right

June 1st, 2012 Comments off

Right fit project selection and definitionWe all know the story of Goldilocks who product tested the food and furniture of her neighboring bear population.  By trial and error, she bounced from too hat and large to too cold and small until she found “just right”.

Organizations go through the same process in finding what is right for their performance improvement initiatives.  Projects are sometimes so small that they aren’t worth management’s attention. And sometimes they are so large and complex that they can’t be supported by the available resources time and knowledge. And so the organization bounces from guardrail to guardrail trying to find the right level of effort, capability and results which in and of itself is a waste of time and effort.

So how do you get it right and bypass the time and effort?  How do you pick projects that fit your organizations goals?

Download Operational Governance Executive Brief

 an Executive Brief that describes a framework for operational governance that can help you drive real value (ROI) from your performance improvement efforts

We have written extensively about project selection.  We talk about North to South alignment from Dashboards to Improvement efforts.  People have reviewed our recommended path and said “I get it…I believe that process does align the efforts to the strategic goals…but the projects are still not right…how do we get it right?”

The answer is in defining “right”.  And a big part of the effort to define it is to be honest with yourself and your team.  As an example, if you are focused on productivity, don’t pretend otherwise by talking about innovation or the satisfaction of other stakeholders than the business.  And if you want long term growth, face the conflict with short term capital constraints.

Mechanically, where in our recommended roadmap does that mirror get held up?  It’s in the rankings and rating of projects.  Regardless of your priorities, you’ll always develop a project list by moving from the creation of a dashboard to conversion of those metrics to Critical to Stakeholder Requirements to process metrics within a Value Stream Map.  Performance gaps relative to those metrics produce the project list.

It is then that the honesty begins.  As you create criteria, they must be weighted and it is those weightings that determine which projects rise to the top. And it is the depth to which you drive those project definitions that determine the level of their impact.  You can steer the efforts to a few big, breakthrough projects or too many small incremental projects.

But continue to be honest with yourself –those big, high level breakthrough projects are often gnarly and require real enterprise wide capability and focus.  And for those many, small projects to cumulatively have a strategic impact your organization will require a long term vision and fundamental cultural change.

Our Roadmap to Operational Excellence is a practical approach to improving whatever you seek to drive whether it’s your personal golf scores and weight loss or your company’s customer satisfaction and cash flow.  You set measures for targets, understand how you get there, identify how you’re doing and target to improve your lowest performing activities.  But a big assumption is that you all agree on what you want and are honest about it with yourselves and the team including an assessment of your capabilities. Get your rankings right and using the framework for improvement, you’ll progress.

If you want to talk more about Project Selection or our Roadmap to Operational Excellence please contact me at jlopezona@ssqi.com.

Project Definition is Critical for Success – 5 Key Elements You Ignore at Your Own Peril

August 12th, 2011 Comments off

Project Charter | Project DefinitionWe have many discussions with organizations where Lean, Six Sigma, and other performance improvement efforts have outright failed, or maybe have just started to lose their impact.  In an earlier article, we talked about the importance of alignment and how important it is to have clear line of sight to the performance gaps that matter the most.  But, in some cases, scorecards and dashboards are there, with well-defined KPIs pointing to high-value targets, yet improvement efforts still yield less than desired results. Why?

Of course there can be many reasons, but lack of discipline around project definition, or project charters, is something we see consistently in these problem situations.  Poorly defined projects are without a doubt a recipe for disaster.  You may be focusing on exactly the right problem, but, if the project’s problem statement and objectives are not well-defined, your chances of success in making an impact fall dramatically. So what are the key elements of a good project definition and charter?  Here are 5 big things I think should be present in all improvement project charters / project definitions:

    1. A clear Problem Statement that defines the business problemin specific and quantifiable terms.  Done well, it will answer the following questions clearly and concisely:
      • What is the primary metric, or needle, that I’m trying to move?
      • What is the primary metrics current, or baseline, value?
      • How did I measure the primary metric’s baseline value, and over what period?
      • From the business’ perspective, what is the target value for the primary metric?
      • What is the gap between current performance and needed performance levels for the primary metric?
      • What is the value (in $’s if at all possible) of closing that gap?
      • What areas of risk do I need to pay attention to as I try to move the primary metric? These will become your secondary metrics. For example, if you’re trying to reduce costs in some customer facing area of the business, you need to pay attention to such things as attrition rates, customer satisfaction scores, etc.

 

    1. A clear Objective Statement for the project.  It is unlikely that a single project can close the entire gap for the business problem defined in #1.  It is more likely (and usually preferable) that a project focuses on a sub-process, or segment of the overall value stream, and it targeting only a portion of the overall gap.

 

    1. A clear understanding of the Start and Stop points for the project.  Related to #2, be very clear on exactly which segment of the value stream (subprocess) the project will be restricted to.  This is about scope, and avoiding the ever-present scope creep.  It may need to be adjusted as the project progresses (and/or evolves), but make an effort to define start and stop points up front.

 

    1. A clear definition of the Team that needs to be involved in the project.  Team members may be actively working on the project analysis, or they may just be subject matter experts that are called upon to gather information and feedback.  They may work in the process/sub-process being analyzed, or they may be customers of or suppliers to that process.  Take time to think through who really needs to be involved, and engage them early.

 

  1. Explanations of how things like are computed and derived.  For the gap values in problem and objective statements, how were those values derived?  There will always be questions of value, and it’s better to have explanations right in the project definition. The same goes for primary metric baseline values?  How were derived?  Show the data that was used, identify any assumptions that were made, identify any anomalies in the data, etc.

Project definition (project chartering), done well, takes time and effort, but I can assure you that your project outcomes will suffer if shortcuts are taken here.  I do realize that there is a lot of ground covered with these 5 elements, and that there is a lot of detail and nuance in each.  In an upcoming post, I plan to present an example and walk through each of the elements in some detail.

Download our Project Selection executive brief

a short presentation on project identification and definition ….

Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss project chartering and project definition for your organization and its improvement efforts.

Business Process Management (BPM) = Robust Project Pipelines after the Low-Hanging Fruit is Harvested

March 10th, 2011 1 comment

BPM and Improvement Project selectionSo, what does Business Process Management (BPM) mean to you if your organization has already gone headstrong into lean,  six sigma or other improvement efforts?    What does it mean to you if the efforts have really produced some good results?  Think you don’t need it and should move on?   You may want to think again ….

I constantly talk with people and hear some variation of ….

“We got a lot of great results from our program (Lean, Six Sigma, Quality, CI, etc) for the first couple years, everyone was excited and motivated, but now the program seems to be running out of steam.  Results and participation are falling, interest in waning, and we can’t figure out why”.

There are, of course, many potential causes for this, but one of them seems to be pretty consistent.  There is no real project pipeline and project prioritization approach. What happens?  People don’t really know what to work on so they don’t do anything or, maybe worse, they start working on squeaky wheel projects that have little or no impact on the business, and may even have a negative impact.  If this happens, I can assure you that it is a recipe for disaster for any business improvement program.

Download our whitepaper that discusses using BPM and scorecards to align improvement efforts Download our whitepaper that discusses using BPM and scorecards to align improvement efforts

If you build that BPM framework, you will have a clear view of what really matters to the business and metrics to gauge your success in improving those things.  A pipeline of business cases and projects can be built based on measurable performance gaps and those projects will, by definition, have clear line of sight to things that really matter.  A clear prioritization scheme then keeps things practical and real.

If you have a clear list of projects that are absolutely aligned with the things that matter most to the business and you have a way to prioritize improvement efforts, do you think an improvement program is likely to fizzle?   I think not.

So, give BPM a second look, even if you’re well into an improvement program.  It doesn’t have to be a complicated, drawn out task.  If you’re just getting started, you can and should build it in stages, while you’re picking up some of those low hanging fruit projects.   If you have a mature effort, you can still build it in manageable stages by prioritizing the different areas of the business.  In the medium to long run, it might be the difference between your improvement program being a flavor of the month initiative and a long-term, strategic value-add component of the way you do business.

Contact me if you’d like to discuss BPM and your organization in more detail.

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On another note, we began “tweeting” about a month ago and just were rated in the top half of Twitter profiles by Hubspots ranking tool. We have grown a nice group of friends who we follow and that follow us by regularly tweeting on key subjects as well as making announcments about our complimentary content offerings. We invite you to join us on twitter at @sixsigmaqualtec.

Thanks for your support and have a great Labor Day weekend. See you on the other side.