Tag Archives: process improvement

ISO Quality Management Principles – Balancing Process & People

As you may know, in 2015 the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) issued an update to its widely followed 9001 standards. 

This update was not, at the time, officially part of the 9001 standards, but it included the addition of new Quality Management Principles outlining, according to an Engagement Strategies Media (ESM) article, the fundamental conditions necessary for an organization to sustain high levels of quality and performance.

The Quality Management Principles are:
  1. Customer focus
  2. Leadership
  3. Engagement of people
  4. Process approach
  5. Improvement
  6. Evidence-based decision-making
  7. Relationship management

As noted in the article, these principles focus on both “process” and “people/engagement.” As the article goes on to suggest, this balanced focus is clearly necessary to achieve and sustain high levels of quality and performance.

Read the full article…

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.

Increase the Pace of Continuous Improvement Via Process Examination

perception2Recent posts have focused on the importance of quantifying waste and opportunities for improvement before launching improvement projects.

Otherwise, we risk working on the wrong things because there is typically very little correlation between the ad-hoc ideas for improvement (perception) and the biggest problems or opportunities for improvement that actually exist within the organization (reality).

This post will focus on the “Process Examination” approach, which involves creating a value map to identify inventory pileups, bottlenecks, delays, and so on.

One effective method of accomplishing this is to create a SIPOC diagram, which is  a visual tool for documenting a business process from beginning to end by listing:

  • Suppliers
  • Inputs
  • Process
  • Outputs
  • Customers

The SIPOC diagram will enable you to determine high level process flow, identifying each key input and output of each process.

Once you have these identified, you list the quality criteria for each input and output, select an importance factor for each criterion and select how well it is met — or not!

Improving Sales

Imagine what it would be like if your company could make every sale!

How much revenue could be generated each year? How much profit? How much growth?

How would you manage it all? What changes or improvements to the current selling process do you think would be required for this to happen?

lowaimquote Of course it wouldn’t be reasonable to plan on making “every” sale, but as the James Russell Lowell quote suggests, it’s best to aim high!  But in an effort to do so, and when trying to answer these questions, most people discover that selling is a multifaceted activity, and identifying the waste that is common to the process is more challenging than expected.

To begin with, the physical work is tough to track because it’s done in different places (i.e., in the field, in showrooms, on the phone, etc.) under varying circumstances, and involves a constantly changing cast of characters (every customer is unique!).

In addition, standardized practices are not easy to establish due to regional variations in culture and acceptable conduct. And the appropriate “next step” in the process is constantly subject to change based upon several varying and unknown factors – how the customer or prospect will react to what’s put on the table, their decision-making process, communication gaps, and more!

But as is the case with all forms of work, once we sufficiently delve into the work involved in selling, we can identify waste and find tremendous opportunities for improvement.

Consider that all waste can be categorized in one of the following four ways:

  • Waste of material
  • Waste of capital
  • Waste of time
  • Lost opportunities

Over the years we have learned that the greatest waste tends to fall into the fourth category – the lost opportunities. These lost opportunities are most often due to sales that were not made, either because we didn’t discover the opportunity or because we lost to a competitor. Some of the lost opportunity can also be traced to sales we made at sub-optimum margin.

Over the next few posts we’ll look more closely at ways to improve the sales process and, in so doing, ways to reduce the number of lost opportunities.

Where & How to Make Waste Walks Most Effective

decisionsAs noted in our previous post, in many organizations gemba or Waste Walk efforts-to-date have primarily or exclusively taken place in manufacturing, warehouse or shop-floor environments; and certainly there is much to be gained by “going to gemba” in these areas.

For example, during one Waste Walk in a manufacturing area, those involved focused on process constraints, and identified several bottlenecks and, ultimately, solutions that increased overall capacity; in another similar setting the gemba team was able to separate value added work from that which was non-value added, and then created data images to document the changes they believed would maximize the former and eliminate the latter.

Taking a slightly different twist, one manufacturer’s gemba team pre-selects a theme each month, such as safety or process inefficiencies, and during the walk they search for activities or process steps that impact the theme.

However, while Waste Walks are most often put into practice within the above mentioned areas, many that take place in other organizational areas have proven most worthwhile.

For example, a supply chain management company used Waste Walks as a way of solving a recurring order-processing problem that had become a hot issue with one of their mid-sized customer locations. They involved a number of their team members, including representatives from management, customer service and their CI group. It worked out so well that they now do Waste Walks at customer sites on a regular basis. Not only do the teams solve problems and make design changes in ways that benefit both parties, but their relationships with these customers have also grown significantly, which has boosted revenue and customer retention.

Based on the success of gemba or Waste Walks at customer locations, the company has recently started conducting them with suppliers, and anticipates similar positive results.

Other companies send their employees to observe how their customers use their products and to look for complexities, errors, of troubles that the products cause the customers.  Having done that, the employees are able to go back to their own gemba and see more opportunities for Improvement.

In the retail sector, one company conducted a series of Waste Walks during their inventory season, watching and documenting the process at different stores. While some best-practices were certainly documented during the Waste Walks at the top performing sites, the greatest gains were made during Waste Walks at the stores in which performance was traditionally mediocre, where, as a result of the initiative, average cycle time was cut in half!

Even though Waste Walks are used less frequently in areas where the work is  less visible, such as administrative offices, purchasing departments, and R&D labs, some of the greatest opportunities reside in these places. When the work is less visible, the Waste Walk team needs to ask many more questions of the people doing the work in order to learn what they are doing and to gain valuable insights.

Persistence: the Root Cause of CI Success

We came across a thougth-provoking article posted on the Process Excellence Network in which authors Harry Lenderman & John W. Moran share their experience and observations indicating that persistence is the root cause of success.

“Having observed many successful and productive Quality Improvement (QI) teams has shown us that persistence is the root cause of their success in solving issues that have plagued organizations for decades,” the authors state. “Conversely, when we observed QI teams that do not seem to gain traction in problem solving; the lack of being persistence is the root cause of their failure.”

The article adds perspecdtive by suggesting that “we learned in school that an object in motion continues to remain in motion. The brain equivalent of remaining in motion is persistence and this is what drives successful QI teams.”

The Most Important Business Decisions…

decisionsThere are many tools-of-the-trade associated with continuous improvement, ten of which we identified in a previous post.

However, in addition to tools and methodology, it’s important to remember that Continuous Improvement is “all about the work” and the most important questions that must be answered before putting implements and implementations in play are “What you choose to work on and how you choose to accomplish that work.”

As Bill Conway has always said, these are the most important business decisions we make every day.

Two Basics for Driving Continuous Improvement

Several past posts have focused on the subject of change, reaffirming its importance and also reaffirming that people generally resist it.

Along the same lines, it is equally as important to gain agreement from all parties involved in CI that change is, in fact, a positive thing, and also in any specific improvement/change project’s objectives.

During a recent discussion among improvement specialists, some interesting comments were made about these two intertwined subjects. Here are a few of those comments, which reflect well on the above-listed realities:

“I agree you do need to get at least the majority of the people involved in the change bought in and agreed on the plan. Often the reason people are not in agreement or just do not want to put effort into the initiative is that there is no support for the move from the top. The senior management must show there support for such a PI project or people will be afraid to promote any change in current practices or processes.”

“Some people resist change–it’s an emotional thing. I have even had people break down in tears at the prospect of changing how the company works.”

“Bringing people together to agree on requirements has always been the first step to revitalizing the processes and to helping them feel more comfortable about making changes.”

“PI projects must start off with a pre-planning meeting between all Stakeholders, Champion/ Sponsor and voice of the customer advocates.  This meeting would include drafting a Project Charter which would be a written agreement among all on a problem statement, goals, expected changes, benefits/ outcomes, team member selection, and listed resources.”

“Before starting on the processes, get the executive team to define a vision 3-years out; soon enough to need to take action, far enough away to not be expected tomorrow. This vision must meet two main criteria – be feasible and different from today – i.e. require change.”

What are your thoughts?


4 Ways to Increase Value-Added Work

valueadded22Now that we have established the core value-add of a manager is to study and improve the system of work, and that by eliminating the root causes of the “debris and impediments” leaders can enable the workforce to spend more time creating value and making more money, we can move on to sharing ideas on “how” to do so.

Here are four ideas to increase the portion of resources that are directed at value adding activities:

  1. Work On The Bottlenecks. When we work on many things that have a small effect, we will have a small impact.  The way to increase value most substantially is to work on the bottleneck or constraint. All improvement effort that is off the critical path will have a lower impact on increasing the value add. If the bottleneck can be widened even just a little, it provides a pure increase in value. 
  2.  Increase Understanding of And Alignment With What Customers Truly Value. One of the biggest wastes is when the products or services we offer do not align perfectly with the customers’ needs and values. Errors are possible in two directions.
    • Bundling a feature into the product or service that the customers do not really need or want.
    • Overlooking ways we could leverage our capabilities to solve a problem that the customers may not even have articulated to themselves.
  3. Get At The Root Causes. Replace the constant working on problems and symptoms with lasting solutions by drilling down to root causes.
  4. Eliminate The Non Value Adding Administrative Work. A great deal of time in most organizations is spent on emails, meetings, and reports that do not produce additional value for the customers or the organization.
    The amount of non-value-adding administrative work that can be found in most organizations is so varied and so large that we will share several specific ideas for seizing this opportunity for improvement in our next post.


10 Benefits of Visual Management

As a final thought on visual management (see previous article), whether using it as a management tool or an action aid, it has been effective in improving results in organizations of all types and sizes.

Here’s a “top 10” list of benefits:

  1. Faster response time
  2. Fewer mistakes in production, materials management or maintenance
  3. Fewer errors in office operations
  4. Increased safety
  5. Reduced number of OSHA-reportable accidents
  6. Speed of execution and higher productivity/throughput
  7. Fewer errors in production, materials management, maintenance, and office operations
  8. Faster process analysis and improvements
  9. Reduced inventory and fewer stock-outs
  10. Better team-work and more engaged employees

Possibly you have some examples of how visual management has benefited your organization?