Tag Archives: quick wins in process improvement

An Execution Booster

Our previous few posts have focused on leveraging high-performance teams and agility in order to more effectively execute strategic improvement plans. An additional tool that can significantly boost the execution step is a “quick win.”

According to John Kotter, author of Leading Change and The Heart of Change, creating “quick wins” build momentum, defuse cynics, enlighten pessimists, and energize people.

The key elements of a “quick win” are right there in those two words: it’s got to be quick and it’s got to be successful.

A “quick win” must be completed in 4 to 6 weeks at most, but many are implemented much faster such as in a kaizen blitz where a small group focuses full time on an improvement for a day or two, or half-time for a week.

For a solution to become a “quick win” it is almost always an improvement that can be completed with the people closest to the work and with the resources close at hand. Sometimes a “quick win” is a high value improvement executed with speed. But even an improvement with small dollar impact can have a great ROI — because the time and expense invested is so low and the organization begins reaping the benefits so quickly.

Because of the speed imperative, if a solution requires a significant capital investment, it is not going to be a “quick win.” If it requires a large team or cross-functional buy-in, chances are it will be a slow win if it succeeds at all. Many “quick wins” do not require a formal team; often a natural work team can identify the problem and implement a quick solution.

We should also note that there are some potential risks associated “quick wins,” which we’ll discuss in our next post, after which we’ll share keys to successful “quick wins.”

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of “Quick Wins” in Continuous Improvement

time_is_money_800_10875As discussed in our three previous posts, when it comes to Continuous Improvement (CI) time is definitely a factor. Thus Quick Wins can be a powerful means of moving teams into action, and are an indispensable tool for any continuously improving organization!

As we complete our series of posts on the subject, here are five ideas that can help your organization get the most out of Quick Wins.

Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good. Often an organization has a problem for which the perfect technology solution is known — it is just not available, either because of the cost or because it is still under development. Ask “what else?” What are the other ways the problem can be solved? It is often difficult to think of a Plan B, when there is a big, gleaming, perfect, obvious solution that is simply not available now. The temptation is to set aside the problem as something you need to live with — but there may be other solutions not quite as good but that at least capture 50%, 60%, 80% of the benefit that the best solution could provide.

Eat the Elephant One Bite at a Time Many of us choose scopes that are way too big. A large scope greatly slows the work and reduces the likelihood of success, making the project into a lumbering giant. Our instincts may tell us if we have a big scope, we will have a big win — but the opposite is more often true. To get good results quickly, we must take a big problem and break it down into bite-sized chunks.

Rely on the People Close to the Work The people closest to the work often have the best ideas about the problem and possible solutions. They live with the problems in the work every day and are a great source of possible “quick fixes.” A Waste Walk is a great way to explore the work and talk to the people close to the work to identify potential targets for improvements or for a “kaizen blitz.”

Keep it Simple The simpler the better. Cross organizational projects move much more slowly as priorities and approvals must be aligned in order to make progress. The fewer people on the team, the simpler it is to get together and get to work on the problem. Start small and simple, execute, and build the skills and motivation to tackle more and more problems.

Enjoy It! A Quick Win is both satisfying and fun! Make sure you celebrate and spread the news. Take measurements, take pictures, take the team to lunch! Then go back and do it again.

Read the full article…

Continuous Improvement Quick Wins: Risks & Rewards

house_built_of_cards_400_clr_9356As noted in our previous two posts, Quick Wins can be a powerful means of moving teams into action.

But achieving a quick win is more easily said than done and going after Quick Wins is not a sure fire strategy. In fact, there are a few common pitfalls:

  • Analysis shortcuts… In an effort to implement a solution quickly a team might skip over the analysis. This is fine if trying the solution is cheap, and if it is quick and easy to determine if it solved the problem. Otherwise it is better to do more analysis up front to make sure that the solution you want to implement will actually yield improvements.
  • The first idea is the only idea… Sometimes, when you aim for speed, you get a rush to judgment resulting in sub-optimization. If “the first idea is the only idea,” it is quite possible more thoughtful consideration of the alternatives could surface a substantially better solution.
  • Band-aides… An organization may simply resort to a band-aide or patch or work-around rather than a solution that addresses a root cause. These band-aides can accumulate until they represent a pretty big component of waste in themselves.
  • Off-the-shelf ideas… Often a Quick Win is really just an idea someone has been carrying around for a while. When an organization is introduced to Continuous Improvement, a flood of these “off-the-shelf” ideas may be surfaced. Unless an organization really internalizes the search for waste, the study of facts and data, the search for root causes, and the testing then standardization of the solution, they don’t know how to keep improving once these “on the shelf” ideas get used up.

Quick Wins are important elements of an organization’s Continuous Improvement efforts, and speed does not necessarily mean a team must take short cuts in the process improvement methodology.

Thoughtful exploration of alternatives can be bounded by time. Even 30 minutes of brainstorming alternatives or improvements to an idea can make a difference; and allowing 24 hours for feedback and improvements on the idea can identify ways to make it even better — with minimal impact on speed.