Step 2 – Plan and Conduct the Rapid Improvement Event

Once projects are identified they are classified by the toolsets that will be used to identify root causes and provide solutions for them. Those requiring extensive data analysis may be classified as Six Sigma or big data analytics projects. Those requiring major process investigation require an integrated Lean approach. Projects with a limited scope and those that can be rapidly executed such as days or weeks can be deployed as a rapid improvement workshop. These use a structured approach to focus a team on a valid business problem, obtain the necessary resources to schedule the workshop, and then aggregate projects with common causes or likely solutions. In these workshops, teams meet and complete work activities in a matter of days if the projects are simple, e.g., focused on a single work area with follow-ups for uncompleted work tasks. More complex workshops involving several different teams and locations may not be able to discuss all the problems identified though workshop prework. But these can be prioritized and assigned to a post-workshop team for follow-up.

At the beginning of a rapid improvement workshop, the improvement team should have been trained to understand the basic tools and templates for data collection and analysis as well as how to evaluate a process to look for process simplification and standardization opportunities. Training is needed for creating a project charter or updating an existing one by refining the problem statement and goals, using data collection forms, and being able to do simple analyses of the data. Other needed skills are building and analyzing a Value Flow Map (VFM), estimating benefits, and implementing solutions. These topics will be discussed in upcoming chapters including Chapters 4 and 5 in which several Excel templates are provided to help collect and analyze process data. Once data is collected and analyzed a list of recommendations is created and approved by the workshop sponsor for implementation.

Rapid improvement workshops have changed from their initial focus on localized manufacturing work locations. These are also relevant applications for end-to-end process improvements, but cross-functional stakeholders need to be added to the team. Also, in these workshops, participants are usually virtual and located remotely. The information needed to prepare for end-to-end workshops is gathered from different IT systems. This is in addition to the normal prework of conducting interviews, analyzing performance reporting, and planning. Typical examples of end-to-end or enterprise workshops include employee onboarding, new product introductions, product or service renewals, resolving customer satisfaction issues, and efficient asset management, e.g., inventory investment through escalations of complaints from sales to engineering or manufacturing. The common theme is that several teams need to be included to understand and agree on the problem statement, its extent, how to measure it, and the approach for developing common solutions that can be supported by stakeholders as their processes are updated.

Step 3 – Implement Solutions to Change Behaviors

Organizational change is complex. Most of an organization must be convinced that new behaviors are advantageous to sustain them. The basis for effective and sustainable process change both at a project and organization level is sustainable solutions that eliminate process issues. Solutions must also be easy to maintain by the process owner. Irrelevant or complicated solutions will fall into disuse. Solutions should also create measurable benefits for the organization and process owner. Benefits accrue when the root cause analysis and solution were properly done. Other important change activities include training employees to follow new procedures and planning for an effective project transition to the process owner.

Over an extended period, organizational behaviors will be positively influenced by an initiative when projects are successfully completed. This is especially true for operational initiatives such as Lean and Six Sigma because their tools and methods are useful for creating and executing projects that change organizational behaviors. It has been shown that organizational change can take several years if it is strategically aligned and prioritized with proper rewards, recognition, and communication systems.

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