Tag Archives: continuous improvement process

Why An 8-Step Improvement Plan?

While organizations in most sectors work at making at least some ongoing improvements to their work and work processes, most industries or vertical markets consist of leaders and followers.

People often ask about what makes the difference between the industry leaders and the follow-behinds.  In our experience, there are two things:

  1. What they work to improve
  2. How they go about the improvement

Industry leaders tend to “work on the right things,” which, as we’ve noted numerous times in this blog, is the most important decision we all must make every day. They also go about making improvements in an effective way. By working on the right things and following a proven effective improvement process, an organization can get further faster.

We recommend an 8-step process for studying and improving the work. While it is possible to make improvements in fewer steps, the more comprehensive eight-step process helps to ensure people are working on the “right” things, and also that the improvements will “stick.”

These steps are:

  1. Identify and quantify the waste you want to eliminate
  2. Clearly define what you want to do (including problem statement, objective, measurements, scope, team, and plan)
  3. Study and measure the current situation
  4. Analyze the root causes and evaluate and plan solutions
  5. Implement
  6. Study the results and take appropriate action until objectives are met
  7. Stabilize and standardize the improvement so that it stays in place and is used throughout
  8. Evaluate and learn from this improvement effort and plan the next

As noted above, some people think this seems like a lot of steps and wherever we go we meet people who want to “streamline” this process . We call them the “two-fivers” because the improvement process they follow is simply:

  • think of something they believe will improve things
  • implement it

Two-fivers eliminate 3/4 of the steps we recommend! Possibly a good, or at least workable idea… but the whole point of the eight steps is to make sure people are working on the right thing, that they get to the right solution, and that it sticks. If you can do without that, by all means, be a two-fiver.

Improving the “Improvers”

A Standardized Model…

Some organizations are very, very good at process improvement. Have you ever wondered how they get so good at it? The odds are, they have studied and “improved” the improvement process.

In other words, process improvement is itself a process that can be improved…, yet it is often ignored by the very professionals who spend their time improving other work processes.

Have you ever wondered about the effectiveness of your organization’s continuous improvement processes?

Is your improvement process as successful as you want it to be?

How well would your improvement process work if everything were exactly right the environment?

A good first-step toward answering these questions might be to evaluate the team. Do the people involved possess the necessary skills? Do they understand the improvement methodology and how it is executed?

During a recent CI discussion, participants agreed that deploying an organization-wide standard improvement process and making sure all stakeholders were taught “how” to implement (and ultimately master) this standard process was the best first step toward improving the improvement process.

To emphasize the importance of standardized work and work processes, one person referenced a Taiichi Ohno quote: “Where there is no standard, there can be no kaizen.”