Tag Archives: project management

Bigger CI Gains Can Come With “Bigger” Challenges

We all strive to achieve breakthrough or “bigger” gains when involved in Continuous Improvement, and a basic fact of accomplishing this is to pursue cross-organizational improvements.

However, these efforts typically involve more people, and this size factor alone can make projects more difficult to execute.

Consider that the larger the group, the more effort is required to ensure that good working relationships develop among the team members. Scheduling meetings becomes more difficult, and individuals may take less responsibility because with a large group it is easier to assume someone else will pick up the slack. There is often a limited window in which people are available, and the more people who must participate, the more constraints the project leader must schedule within.

Here are a few recommendations on how team leaders can minimize these “size-related” difficulties :

  • Make sure each participant has a clearly defined role and that everyone is clear about why each participant is needed.
  • Develop (and continue to refer back to) a clear charter and mandate from senior management
  • Develop ground rules about how to handle absences in a way that ensures the project continues forward. Will substitutes be used? Who can substitute and how will the team make sure that a substitute will know what is expected of them?
  • Set up firm meeting times and locations at the start of the project.
  • Publish minutes so that everyone is clear about what was decided and who has what action item.
  • Publish agendas so that everyone knows what is expected to happen at each meeting. Send reminders to make sure that action items are ready when planned.
  • Involve a facilitator to make sure that everyone provides input and that discussions stay on topic. Projects without a good facilitator will lose focus.
  • Develop concrete time lines and scope, and “chunk the work.” Breaking the work into specific deliverables helps to manage the size and complexity of cross-organizational improvements.

The Right Tool for the Job?

It’s been said that when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Such is not the challenge we face today! Over the past 50 years, a tremendous number of analysis and problem-solving tools have been developed and are available to deploy in the unending quest for better service to customers, producing greater value with less waste. In today’s world, the efficiency and efficacy of continuous improvement depends on selecting the best analysis and problem-solving tool at the right time.

Perhaps the most important tools for success start in the scoping.

Defining and Scoping Improvement Projects
One of the most valuable tools early on to effectively define the process, problem, and project is the SIPOC:

  • Suppliers
  • Inputs
  • Process
  • Outputs
  • Customers

Some organizations always start with the SIPOC to get the team on the same page so they can answer six important questions:

  1. What is the process?
  2. Its purpose (why are we doing this)?
  3. Who owns the process (surprisingly sometimes not obvious/known)?
  4. Who are the customers/suppliers?
  5. Who is the primary customer?
  6. What do they get out of the process or provide for the process?

And then there is a lot of learning about the high level process flow and the process measures for each step.

What’s the ideal? Is the data available?

Are we already measuring it?

What is the goal? What is the impact?

Once the team members have a shared high-level understanding of the process using the SIPOC, and have gathered the data that enables them to measure the gap between the current situation and the ideal, they can create a good problem statement, objective, scope, and timetable.

These together are key components of a Project Charter, the ‘North Star’ of a project that helps keep the project moving forward to successful completion.

Decision-Making & Predicting Success

crystalballA recent post focused on best practices for making the best decisions. However, despite the best intentions Project Managers, Leaders and other members of the workforce frequently look back at failed or semi-successful decisions regarding Continuous Improvement projects with critiques galore about what could have or should have been done.

Fortunately, there is a method for predicting success for continuous improvement projects.

The Conway Success Predictor was developed a few years ago by the Conway team of improvement coaches and distills a century or two of collective experience with what characteristics are most necessary for an improvement project’s success. This wisdom was built into a fun little spreadsheet tool that can help predict your project’s “fortune” after asking you to rate the project, on a scale of one to ten, relative to eleven key criteria. This straightforward approach involves rating potential projects in eleven key areas on a scale of 1-10.

These “rating areas” vary, and include:

  • The potential benefit of the project to the organization is clear, substantial and quantifiable.
  • The problem to be solved is clearly defined and quantifiable, and the project scope is focused and well-defined.
  • The project has top management’s commitment and support (resources, sponsorship and follow-up); no influential person is actively opposed to the project.

A review of the answers can then enable you to predict with a fair degree of accuracy how likely your project is to succeed.

Read the full article…

What’s the Problem Part 2: Defining

defineproblems2Continuing our discussion on the impact problem definition can have on our continuous improvement effort, consider these different approaches to defining the same problematic situation:

  • Order fulfillment is too slow and is costing us a lot of business
  • Our lost sale rate has increased from an average of 125 per month over the previous six quarters to 190 per month this quarter
  • Our Order-to-Delivery timeline has increased to 60 days due to a bottleneck in packaging
  • Profits are down
  • Sales has missed their target for the past three months
  • Packaging is too slow due to old equipment
  • Order-to-Delivery time from the Mid-western plant in Q3 increased by 15 days over the same quarter prior year, and was cited as the cause of 42 lost sales in Q3 impacting revenue by $270,000 in the quarter

Some of these are statements of fact, while others are judgments. Some are very broad and others are very specific.

They may ALL be valid observations about the same situation, yet the problem-solving efforts they would guide would differ greatly in urgency, efficiency, and efficacy. So… developing a good problem statement at the start will help define and lead an improvement project that most efficiently arrives at better results.

But what’s the BEST approach?

Comment…