Once you have an idea of the ‘real’ issue(s) or the ‘root cause(s)’ which must be addressed, you must establish what sort of improvement you are seeking. Because a goal provides the context for determining as well as designing an action plan. For example, the improvement steps to save $1000 via a process improvement campaign are obviously far different from the steps to save $100,000 or $1M - but that’s also the only way you can draw a project's finishing line and establish whether that project was a success.
Also, the journey for reaching goals may vary and the execution plan documents the roadmap for achieving the goal.
All popular continuous improvement methodologies such as Lean, Six Sigma, Hoshin Kanri, Lean Six Sigma, Kaizen , Kanban etc. incorporate the same focus on setting goals that are easily understood, across an organization.
Remember: Regardless of the Continuous Improvement methodology being employed, the goal must be set before selecting a process improvement project, because a project is largely defined by what it is supposed to accomplish.
You may need multiple process improvement projects to achieve a set of goals or often multiple projects to achieve one single goal. A standard line of action while choosing process improvement goal is based on the study of ‘Variation Journal’.
Usual process improvement project pick strategies include- selecting those processes that save maximum money, are easiest or fastest to complete, solve an obnoxious problem, or a process that adversely affects employee working, or where the process improvement is hardest to accomplish (with the idea of 'getting the hard stuff out of the way' will provide serious onward momentum for all subsequent process improvement work).
Tip: Process improvement project success depends on the goal set up, as well as, a sound execution plan before you go about implementing process changes.
In my career as a Global Continuous Improvement Leader spanning a decade, I have found that, using Agile during process change implementation, paves way to guaranteed success with process improvement campaigns.
With Agile management the execution plan becomes a series of sprints instead of one long comprehensive plan.
Tip: Note that Agile works best in environments of frequent changes or development of a new product line, where new features and obstacles are constantly introduced and need to be managed.
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About the Author: Shruti Bhat PhD, MBA, Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt
Dr. Shruti Bhat is an award-winning Business Excellence Leader, Global Continuous Improvement Mastermind, Best-selling Author and Speaker.
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