Go Execute the Continuous Improvement Plan!

by Beau Groover
Posted 2/2/2010

Before I start the actual blog, I wanted to tell you all that I am very thankful to be an American. I had family in town over Thanksgiving, and we cooked and ate like there was no tomorrow! As I was sharing the food and laughs with family, it just reminded me how great we have it here in America. I hope that I never take it for granted just how great this country is, and how it is all of our responsibility to keep it that way! I hope all of you had a great holiday and have many blessings to count as well.

OK, so now back to continuous improvement. We have been working through the planning phase of CI, and we have communicated the plan, we have developed a clear communication process and we have posted the plan to make it visual. What’s next?

We finally get to go to work on the plan! This is my favorite part! Hopefully, your plan follows a path based on your performance metrics for quality, cost, delivery and safety. For each of these groups, you should have pretty well-defined targets such as to improve by 10 percent, reduce by 12 percent, increase by 9 percent, etc. For each metric, you should have a corresponding objective.

Additionally, you have communicated the plan and the reasons why you are going after certain items on the plan. Next, you have created at least a sketch of how you are going to communicate going forward. Finally, you have posted the plan for folks to see who are in the facility. Whew!

So, now what? It is now time to execute. Hopefully, you are using some great CI methodologies founded in Six Sigma and the Toyota Production System. Each of the items on your plan may need some additional analysis to see exactly what is involved in the improvement of those items.

Are you going to have a team leader by initiative? Are you going to employ value stream management? Are there natural families for you to follow? Is your CI effort themed in one area (quality, cost, delivery, safety, morale and/or innovation)?

As you go through the next levels, you are moving from strategic questions to more tactical questions. At the high level, you may want to improve delivery performance by 11 percent. However, before you can attack delivery performance, you need to do some analysis of what goes into the delivery performance. It may be questions about volume, customer mix, new products, standard vs. special systems, days of the week, geography, etc.

My hope and recommendation is that you employ lean and Six Sigma to these next steps so that you are able to effectively sort out which is which. Please be careful that you don’t just do what you have always done. In other words, if your organization is slanted toward Six Sigma, don’t make everything a DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control) project. On the other hand, if your organization is more of a lean organization, don’t call everything a kaizen either.

As you are laying out the next steps of your executable plan, you must first decide which approach to use. Not everything is a kaizen; not everything is a project. Selecting the right tool will ensure you the highest impact at the lowest cost in terms of time required.

For purposes of simple definitions:

  • Kaizen – This is a very rapid approach to continuous improvement. The scope should be such that while you have a problem statement identified, you do not have the solutions yet. Be careful that you are not trying to “boil the ocean” in a week. You are willing to empower a team to execute the improvement process. There are specific and measureable goals and objectives for the problem statement. During a kaizen week, there should be a miniature PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle within the week. You also have a resource that is well versed and capable of leading a kaizen for you.
  • Project – This is a longer-term approach that may allow for items scoped larger. These may include projects that are bigger than a kaizen and, in some cases, projects may be made up of several kaizens. There are specific and measureable goals that you are going after. You are willing and able to empower a team to pursue the effort. You have a resource available that is capable of managing a project and has enough CI experience to bring the expertise to the project.
  • Do-it – These are items where you know what needs to be done, but the resources just haven’t been allocated yet to the effort. For example, in looking at the plan, replacing the spindle bearing on piece of equipment X shows up as a reason you can’t perform. Replacing the spindle becomes a “do-it.” Now, just “do-it”!

At the end of each of these activities, please remember that you need to update your posting(s), and you need to communicate the activities to others. Finally, you need to chart and track the results to make sure that your efforts are yielding the results you seek.

Remember, what you are after is a culture of continuous improvement. Along the way, you will reap a great deal of benefits in terms of performance improvements and tactical performance. The end game is always the culture. Never lose sight of that fact.

Go and execute! I will post again soon! Please provide your comments, questions and stories of CI/lean implementation. I look forward to hearing from you.

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