Before I share with you these five quick ways let me say this. Please don’t wait until you have a crisis in your business before you innovate. Process improvement works best when done in a controlled manner. Knee jerk improvement activities are rarely sustainable and easily come undone.
These five quick ways are tried and tested. They get results quickly and can make a real difference to the performance of your business. If the ideas resonate with you then don’t forget to check out the StreamLiner software. This software is a great way to help control and speed up Lean projects and manage continuous improvement.
1. Create a quick audit
Creating a quick audit and then carrying it out is a really good way to find out the state of play of a process. Don’t worry about trying to create a perfect ‘ISO 9001’ type audit. Look at a process, identify a handful of key activities and then go and look at it.
Within a matter of moments you will be able to understand how the process is faring. You don’t need to spend hours doing this, a few minutes thinking about what good looks like and then checking is all it needs to take. Any variance to your expectations becomes the start of your process improvement plan.
2. Capture the concerns
If you don’t want to start with conducting an audit you could simply capture your concerns. Capturing the issues and gripes around a process is the first step in a CCC, or 3C, activity. CCC stands for Concern, Cause and Countermeasure.
Whenever a concern is voiced, capture it and at a later point analyse it. The analysis should find out the root cause and from there the countermeasure (action) should be obvious. A concern can be anything that doesn’t work, or behave, the way that it is expected to. It is better to capture more and analyse less than not to capture, so don’t hold back!
This approach is a great way to start a process improvement plan. It is also a good way to engage your team with undertaking improvement activities.
3. Identify the obstacles
Another way to build your improvement plan is to identify the obstacles that get in the way of your team from carrying out their jobs. Each obstacle should be a concern, as described above, but this is about perspective. If your team tolerate certain activities they might not raise them as concerns. Your job, as a leader, is to help your team spot their obstacles and then remove them.
Stand back from your process and look what is lying in amongst your team’s activities. This is very much a case of seeing the wood for the trees. What is being done by your team that shouldn’t be done? This question is the essence of Lean. What ‘non-value adding’ tasks are buried in your process or have been adopted by your team?
These wasteful activities, once identified, can then form part of your process improvement plan.
4. Walk the floor
There’s nothing quite like taking a walk through a business to get a feel for what is going on. Most people walk in straight lines through their business. They go from point A to point B without checking out the scenery on the way past. Try walking through your business just to look, it might be eye opening.
Little problems that don’t get raised formally. Standards that aren’t being met. Organisation that is sub-par. Disorganised information and records. Weak management. These are the kinds of issues that walking the floor often throw up. Capture these items and use them to form your improvement action plan. Adding them to your concern list and processing them that way can be really powerful.
5. Target a PFA
The final quick way is to target a Process Flow Analysis (aka PFA). This method takes a very specific part of your process and allows you to pull it apart step by step. The formality of the analysis allows you to gain a new perspective on the efficiency and effectiveness of the process.
Within half an hour I have seen the PFA tool used to slash over 80% of a process’ lead time. It is quick to undertake and if you have never used this approach before you will find instructions within the StreamLiner guide.
If you haven’t created your improvement action plan at this point I would keep the PFA to target a particularly troublesome area. Use the other points listed above first and then direct the PFA to finish the job off!
Create your process improvement action plan
Once you have a whole raft of improvement actions and opportunities it is time to create your plan. To get the most of out of your plan:
- Ensure that your team meet frequently to discuss progress.
- Prioritise to achieve the ‘biggest bang for your buck’.
- Use bite sized chunks if progress slows.
- Make progress visible – keep your marked up plan on a wall.
- Clarify that your team understand the actions they are responsible for.
And, when you have made notable progress with this plan, you can do it all over again. Remember to avoid waiting for a crisis before you create your process improvement action plan!
Finally, if you do need some help with managing the process of change (particularly juggling all the balls at once) then check out the StreamLiner software. It is simple to use and is a really fast way to pull together a process improvement action plan. The built in prioritisation and actions management functions make the overall process of managing change slicker too.
All the best with creating your plans,