Process improvement is a spacious topic, isn’t it? Our lexicons, bookmarks and book shelves are crammed full of approaches, methodology, terms and new software applications. The rate of innovation in our field is exhausting and the field itself is growing more holistic and cross-functional all the time. Yet, for all the new software, merging of IT and operations and clever methodologies, the essence of process improvement remains elegantly simple and highly effective. Continuously seek to simplify, accelerate and reduce re-work. If you can focus on those 3 simple objectives, I promise you will positively impact your costs, customer satisfaction ratings and value proposition.
Can’t See the Forest Through The Weeds
When you bog down in the weeds – particularly as a small organization – in the interest of developing your own expertise and resume, you run the (high) risk of running your ship against the shore. You’ll become so embroiled in project management and completing dizzying spreadsheets that you won’t be able to show enough progress and momentum to justify your initiative in the minds of leaders. I have seen projects suffer from a form of analysis “vegetation”….much worse than paralysis. Brain waves have simply stopped waving.
I try to remember the story of the Toyota employee who wondered why he had to run back and forth between the assembly line and the supply (parts) depot all day long. He went to Wal-Mart after his shift and bough himself a blue plastic laundry basket. The following day, he filled it with all the parts required at his station and swiftly did his job without having to run back and forth for each part. By methodically plucking parts from his basket, he was better able to focus on what he was doing and had fewer quality concerns (less re-work).
That may be an over-simplified example but it’s a real model for effective change that can be produced by allowing people to SIMPLY improve what they are doing. He met all 3 important criteria: simple, faster, higher quality. If you multiplied that simple change by 500,000 cars per year, you’d discover an opportunity to lower prices, please more customers and promote a greater value proposition.
Improve Process Improvement Processes
If you haven’t already, take a look at how your process improvement process unfolds. Chances are, you can improve that first before you attempt to “fix” others. Doctor, heal thyself.