As a final installment to this short series of posts about increasing the likelihood of an improvement project’s success, it’s important to recognize the importance of up-front work.
Effective planning, even before the launch, was emphasized as critical to success during a discussion with our Partners in Improvement. Some of the key components of this planning include defining the right problem statement, scope, timeframe, and team.
One of the Partners explained that, in his organization, all project charters are required to go through a rigorous review by corporate as well as visiting the location and team beforehand to get the specifics and facilitate good communication.
Another emphasized the importance of having a charter, no matter how simple the project, that sets out the timeline. The charter should clearly identify why we are here and what the target date for completion is. This is hard to predict at the outset when the team has much to investigate, but it is important to have a vision of an end point not too far in the future to keep the scope tight. Set near-term milestones.
Similarly, one organization has implemented the practice of having the team leaders circulate problem statements to other experienced leaders before they start and ask the others to take shots at it — identify where the gaps are, where it lacks specificity in a way that will make it more difficult to define a tight scope. Identifying these hazards up front is likely to make the project more expedient and successful.
Most importantly, and as all of our Partners agreed, managing scope is a must for speed and success.
Apply the Pareto mentality (backed up, of course, with Pareto data), to focus on the 20% of the problem that will provide the biggest bang for the buck. One of the most common causes of slow results is failure to decide on a tight scope that can be addressed within 8 to 12 weeks. Often one needs to gather and study some data in order to decide on a narrow scope, and this often should be done before launching an improvement project. Sometimes a small group may be convened to quickly gather and study the data so that an appropriate improvement team can be launched.
The Bottom Line Summary
To sum it up, in order to ensure on-going success an organization must make sure that its measurement systems, rewards, recognitions, and communications systems support CI.
But more than that, one must make sure that management behavior itself supports CI.