Irrespective of what type of a company you work in, management is seeking a better way of identifying the best projects — projects that will make difference in the bottom line of the company. This manual shows how…how to capture, how to find the problem areas and how to improve your processes. You will finally have a method to tell management where to go in company processes to find the greatest benefit.
Come on, be honest — wouldn’t you really like to
Tell Management Were to Go!
No matter how proficient a company is, performing a single task does not provide value to the customer. Only when all of the tasks required to produce a product or provide a service are performed correctly is an output of maximum value to the customer. Almost all processes involve work being performed by resources from a number of functional departments in an enterprise.
Companies need to change their focus from improving the way individual tasks are performed, to improving how the tasks all fit together to provide value to the customer: in other words, companies need to improve their processes. This does not mean that companies stop trying to optimize the performance of individual tasks. But, in many companies there are greater opportunities for benefits to be achieved by looking at the overall process.
“Streamlining cross-company processes is the next great frontier for reducing costs, enhancing quality, and speeding operations. It’s where this decade’s productivity wars will be fought. The victors will be those companies that are able to take a new approach to business, working closely with partners to design and manage processes that extend across traditional corporate boundaries. They will be the ones that make the leap from efficiency to super efficiency.”
built into this project guide are based on twenty years of experience working with project teams on process improvement. During those years the results ranged from extremely successful to thoroughly disappointing. The two most important factors that have seemed to separate the excellent results from the others involved respect, respect for the methodology and respect for the people with the first hand experience.
The information contained in this procedural manual represents a compendium of thought regarding Process Management and Improvement. Every project is different and as you follow this guide there will be times when you will want to do things differently than suggested here. This is only a guide. Go ahead! Use your best judgment! But let me offer one overriding caution. Don’t skip over the involvement of people who do the work. They are your link to reality.
Five “General” Steps to Process Improvement
To say that there is only one path to Process Improvement would be a vast misstatement. In truth, over the past few years, numerous business authors have offered their ideas regarding the correct steps a business planner or manager should follow to achieve the best results. A careful search of current literature for example would reveal programs that take as few as three or as many as fifteen steps. Although the difference between plans generally lies in the comprehensiveness of each program, almost all have five “global” steps in common. They are:
Identify – The process of first defining and then selecting a process to be improved, this step, although seemingly simple in scope, may be the most difficult of the five. It typically begins, not with actually mapping a process, but with gathering managerial support for the entire process improvement program, establishing requisite change teams, and defining not only expectations but standards of support throughout an organization. It ends when process owners and managers alike agree on the identity of a process and the fact that a process problem exists and is capable of being documented and changed for the better.
Analyze – This step contains the essence of the basis for the improvement process itself. It generally begins with the development of process flow charts and diagrams and ends with a documented understanding of what an existing process is actually achieving, its value and what could be achieved by changing the process. It is here that process measurement metrics are also defined and recommended solutions to process problems first identified in step one are initially stated.
Re-Design – Once an existing process is understood, evaluated and documented, re-design can take place. In most cases, this step is the most ambitious. It can incorporate anything from developing future process flow diagrams and models to selecting best practices to be followed as benchmarks in the establishment of new process flows. Most often, this step is also that point in the improvement process where alternatives are not only recognized but agreed on by the managerial team.
Implement – Possibly the hardest, most critical step on the road to process improvement, implementing changes in process flows, measurement metrics, and managerial responsibility can be traumatic. Without this step however, nothing accomplished in the first three steps matters. Despite its criticality, the process of implementation is really fairly straightforward. It begins with the development of an implementation plan and ends when all planned changes have taken place.
Evaluate – The last but not “final” step in the improvement process, this step is continuous. It begins with the design of an evaluation plan but never ends. Rather, once the plan is accepted and implemented, it is continually updated and the process it is evaluating is continually changed and improved because of evaluative findings.
Principle 1: Top Management must be supportive of and engaged in – Process Improvement – efforts to remove barriers and drive success. A 1996 GAO study showed that the number one reason for the failure of improvement programs was lack of management support. What has changed since 1996 to make you believe that the same wouldn’t be true today?
Principle 2: An Organization’s Culture must be receptive to – Process Improvement – goals and principles! In this regard, there are two applicable, “truths,” that rise from the science of Organizational Design. The first is that cultural change must be lead by those inside the enterprise. The second is that change is not a start and stop process. It’s continuous and on going. Even more critical is the understanding that change is progressive. What alters one department, activity or process in a value chain one day may not affect another until days or even months later.
Principle 3: Major improvements and savings are realized by focusing on the business from a process rather than a functional perspective. This is the primary reason you’re reading this guide. In a nutshell, whereas some savings may be achieved by dealing with single activities in a value chain, the greatest savings are only realized when an entire process is evaluated and altered for improvement.
Principle 4: Processes should be selected for – Improvement – based on a clear notion of customer needs, anticipated benefits and potential for success! There’s a cleverly hidden message here. See if you can find it. It’s simply this. The largest gains may not always come from repairing those processes that seem to be in the greatest need of repair. So, think about the risk-benefit tradeoff before you tackle a process just because it looks needy. Look instead at the benefit to the customer before you decide which way to go.
Principle 5: Process owners should manage – Process Improvement – projects with teams that are cross functional, maintain a proper scope, focus on customer metrics, and enforce implementation deadlines! Here’s another hidden message. It’s that the biggest enemy of Process Improvement success is a set of vague, poorly defined parameters. PI projects must be distinctly framed, defined and mapped to succeed.
Where do we start?
Remember that we said that there were five “general” steps to Process Improvement? Well, that’s still true. To work in the field though, it’s important to step down from the general-theoretical level of analysis and management and establish a little higher-level map of the entire process improvement game field. That way, you can not only identify where you are but see where you’re headed anywhere along the path. In essence, it adds to the framework of the five general steps to achieve a more productive and valuable sets of milestones on the road to better management. Okay, here’s what the new set of steps and sub-steps looks like:
Step 1: Identify
- Who wants the project? Who’s the stakeholder? Customer?
- What kind of project is it?
Document? – Document and evaluate a process for improvement
Improve? – Document and Improve
Reform? – Major PI project
Develop? – Create a new process
Re look? Maintenance of existing model
- Do you have the support of everyone affected?
- Has a Project Definition Agreement or problem statement been prepared? Does it adequately define the project?
- Has the Process in question been defined?
- Does the Process span more than a single organizational element?
- Does the process occupy a significant place in the value chain? Has its value been defined?
- Is there a Process owner? Has one been designated? Is the owner high enough in the organization to span all of the organizational elements included in the process?
- Has an “Improvement Team” been appointed? Are all of the requisite interests and skills represented on the team?
- Is the Process ready to be mapped?
Key Components and Concepts of the “Identify” Step
The first step in the PI process leads to a firm foundation for the remaining steps. It defines not only what is to be done, but how much effort and how many resources will be ultimately committed to the project. Accordingly, it’s imperative that practitioners have an in-depth understanding of some of the more illusive concepts and sub-steps found in this realm. To simplify the manual, items have been divided into “Discussion Points (DP).” Here are the DPs for the Identify Step.
Start projects by meeting with the project requestor to accomplish the following:
- Determine the type of project
- Establish the authority of the project
- Designate Team Members
- Prepare and sign off a Project Definition Agreement (see below)
- Create a Project Announcement
Project Types. Make certain you understand the Project type. The reason should be obvious. A Re-Look project won’t require near as many resources as a full-fledged Process Improvement Change Project. Here’s a summary of the Project types and what you can expect from each:
- Document – Model the Existing Process
Map and model an existing work process, establish the Value Stream and identify the none value adding activities. Review the process with a review team (people who do the work) to assure that it is accurate. These projects clarify processes and build process model libraries that are available for clarification, training and future projects.
- Improve – Model and Improve
Model the existing process and make changes that do not require major development efforts. A process expert team is formed to identify and test changes.
- Reform – An In Depth Study and Reformation
Model an existing work process and thoroughly overhaul it with an improvement team (of people who do the work). The team will strive for the best possible improvements. You will likely model the process several times before arriving at the final goal.
- Develop – Create a Process from Scratch
This Project is generally initiated to define a previously undefined process. An Improvement Team is selected with expertise covering all effected areas and a model is built to simulate future outcome.
- Re-Look – Periodic Update of a Process
A Re-Look Project is initiated when circumstances suggest that an existing process might benefit from periodic, “tweaking,” to make sure the process is performing in accordance with previously established guide lines and expectations. A Re-Look Project may be scheduled to be automatically initiated on a progressive basis depending on the business climate or initiated whenever management feels it necessary.
Project Authority & Scope.
The person who requests a project should have authority that encompasses the entire project. If the project affects areas outside of his or her authority, it’s important that you obtain the approval of someone who does have proper authority.
Project Definition Agreement (PDA).
Needless to say, communication is vital in all circumstances where change may result from any action taken by management, an Improvement Team or a Project Sponsor. Accordingly, it is strongly recommended that the PDA that follows be employed to firmly document the parameters of all Process Improvement Projects initiated at any level for any reason. Without taking this step there are unapparent dangers in performing a project. For example, the real purpose of the project may be missed entirely or the project may “creep” or a host of other problems that could have been avoided. Use the project definition agreement to provide a clear view of what is beneath the surface.
Selecting a Project
Just because someone initiates a Project doesn’t mean that it should be done. In fact, according to a 1995 study by Holland and Kumar (Business Horizons, May-June 1995), a high percentage of Process Reengineering Project failures were the result of selecting the wrong process to reengineer. Even if that wasn’t the identical case with Process Improvement projects, it would probably be close enough to make a difference in the resources committed to a bad project. Here are some rules of thumb (ROT) to follow in the selection/approval of Improvement Projects:
- Select only Process Improvement Projects that deal with Processes that respond to customer needs.
- Select Processes Improvement Projects based on the comparative benefits to be achieved.
- Select Processes Improvement projects that have the highest probability of success.
Selecting Improvement Team Members
An hour’s worth of discussion about who should and shouldn’t be on an Improvement Team wouldn’t be nearly as valuable as a simple checklist about team composition. Here’s yours:
- Select team members from diverse areas of the process under consideration and make sure they represent all of the skill and activity sets found within the process.
- Be leery of volunteers or members who come highly recommended because they’re not busy right now.
- Try to get the pros, the employees who’ve been around for awhile and know the process under sturdy inside and out. It’ll save you incredible amounts of time and effort when it comes time to define things.
- Try to have an odd number of team members.
The Process Owner’s Role
The concept of a Process Owner is relatively new and doesn’t fit very comfortably into most managers’ ideas of management structure. That’s because we’re more accustomed to the idea of a hierarchical arrangement then we are an arrangement that crosses activity and organizational boundaries. Still, with regard to Process Improvement, the Process owner has several significant responsibilities. They are:
- Overall process design
- Setting performance targets
- Budgeting and distribution of operating monies
You don’t have to announce every project. A Re-Look for example, may be nothing more than a quick examination of facts and circumstances. It’s your call. The purpose of the Project Announcement though is to give the manager who requested the project a chance to explain the project to the people in the areas that will be affected. The effect of this meeting can’t be overstated. Following this strategy you will cut through layers of red tape.
Here are the items that are normally covered in a Project Announcement:
- Why the project is being undertaken.
- The designation of team members and other persons in leadership positions.
- An explanation of individual project roles and responsibilities.
- A statement of management’s position regarding the project and a request for support and cooperation from all participants.
The “Analyze” Step
Key Components and Concepts of the “Analyze” Step
The second step in the PI process builds on the foundation laid in the previous step and forms the basis for all steps to follow. In fact, this step contains the essence of the basis for the improvement process itself. It generally begins with the development of process flow charts and diagrams and ends with a documented understanding of what an existing process is actually achieving, its value, and what might be achieved by changing the process. It is here that process measurement metrics are also defined and recommended solutions to process problems first identified in step one are initially stated Here are the sub-steps for the Analyze Step and the Discussion Points that follow.
Step 2: Analyze
- Map/flowchart the Process.
- Identify the Value Stream represented by the Process under study.
- Model the value stream.
- Identify activities that represent wasted time, duplication of effort, bottlenecks, etc.
- Define measurement metrics.
- Using the metrics defined above, evaluate and discuss the problems initially identified in Step 1.
- Present the simulated process to the Improvement Team for comments, revision, and approval.
Capturing the Essence of Process Flow
One of the most frequently asked questions is, “Is there one best way to capture the true nature, direction and character of a process?” The answer is, you bet!” In fact, it’s a short series of steps that most accurately and completely not only captures the essence of a process but ends only when a fully animated and a dynamic model of the process is ready for analysis. Following these steps not only save time but dramatically improves the accuracy of the Process Improvement itself! Here are the steps to follow.
1. “Marching Around” – Discovering the Real Flow – It’s rare to find an immediately available, true and correct description of a process under study. Most organizations have a procedural guide that defines what’s supposed to be done and by whom, but that’s about it. What’s worse, when a process spans more than a single organizational element, it’s rare to find a worker or managers who’s fully familiar with the way a process performs beyond his own realm of responsibility. Because there may be a vast and undiscovered difference between the way an organization’s procedural guide reflects a process is supposed to work and the way it actually works, it’s a good idea to see for yourself. One of the best and most useful methods of validating the essence of a process is by walking from one end of the process to the other taking quick notes as you go. We call this method of establishing an accurate, initial flow picture, “Marching the Process.” The value of this step lies in the first hand knowledge gathered by the Improvement Team of where deviations may lie between what is expected and what is actually going on in a process and what issues may lie at the core of the process that make it work the way it does.
March the Process, making
quick notes of the process flow. Urge the process expert to start with the most common flow. Collect the duration of the activity, splits, combinations and resources used. Collect what is happening at each activity.
As the modeler Marches the Process, it is useful to collect all data entry forms used. If the form is electronic then, do a screen print and highlight the entries made. Make note on the Process Collection Form and the data entry form that will allow the form to be linked to the activity step. Similarly, if other tools, devices or helps are needed, collect samples or make note of the requirement.
Process duration is best collected by using three points to estimate the duration of an activity. Ask the question “How long does it usually take to perform this operation?” Then ask “What is the shortest amount of time is has taken to accomplish this task?” Finally ask “What is the longest amount of time it has taken to accomplish this task?” These three times can now be arranged into a triangular distribution that will be used in ProcessModel. The distribution will be written T(min, most likely, max). That time value can be placed in the time field of the general tab.
2. “Interactive Mapping” – Creating the Flow Chart – Use the information collected from Marching to develop a flow chart of the process. Walking through the process allows the modeler to now create the model faster and more accurately with the help of the process expert. The modeler will understand the terms, conditions and context of the information needed to build the map.
- Arrange the most common activities across the top of the page. This is called the “Happy Path.” Use the diamond (Decision) shape to handle questions or exceptions.
- Build the “Flow” (the activity steps) first. Animate the model with default time entries to show to process team to determine accuracy.
3. “Turning the Switch” – Modeling the Flow Chart – As great – and often revealing – as an initial flow chart may be, it’s not the end product. In fact, making even short-term decisions about the character of a process, and the changes it may require to perform better, based on a flow diagram alone, can be disastrous. The reason lies at the core of all human systems. It’s called variation. Simply put, it’s extremely difficult to predict the overall performance characteristics of even the smallest systems when even slight amounts of variation are present in the way individual tasks or activities are completed. To examine the flow of work, material, ideas, communication, and the value that each represents or contributes to the overall process, requires the use of a tool that can accommodate variation and reflect the impact on the metrics selected to measure process performance and improvement. ProcessModel is just such tool. So, the final step to obtaining a true reflection of the current operational characteristics of a process is to “turn the switch,” and watch the process perform!
Information needed to model:
- Process duration – as a starting point use three points to estimate the duration of an activity. Ask the question “How long does it usually take to perform this operation?” Then ask “What is the shortest amount of time is has taken to accomplish this task?” Finally ask “What is the longest amount of time it has taken to accomplish this task?” These three times can now be arranged into a triangular distribution that will be used in ProcessModel. The distribution will be written T(min, most likely, max). That time value can be placed in the time field of the general tab.
- Mimic the arrival pattern.
- Develop special logic.
- Model resources last.
The concept of value
With regard to value, there are actually three types of tasks and activities found in any process. They are:
Value-Added Tasks (VA) – Those tasks that either …
… add something to the product or service that a customer would pay for
… represent a competitive advantage for the company or
… add a desired function, form or feature to the service.
Required, Non-Value-Added Tasks (RNVA) – Those tasks that add no value to the product or service but are present because they do one of the following …
…. Are required by law or regulation
…. Are required by business necessity
…. Would jeopardize the process if it was removed.
Non-Value Added, Waste tasks (NVAW) – Those tasks that are neither required nor add value to a product or service. Some commonly encountered waste tasks are …
- Multiple signatures
The Value Stream
The value stream consists of one or more processes that produce product or service value for the customer but consume resources in the process of doing so. The value stream is generally the first place analysts look to either measure a Processes output or measure the impact of a process change on an organization.
Ten Ways to Immediately Improve a Process
Results from interviews with leaders in major corporations pointed to the fact that finding things to improve was not a problem, but finding the right things (the combination of projects) that would make a financial impact was arduous. Identifying those one or two key things that will impact the outcome of the system is difficult. ProcessModel provides a tool that automatically identifies the areas of the process that will provide the greatest impact if fixed.
The red bars indicate waste in the system. Eliminate the areas with the largest red and the system will produce more with a reduced cycletime. You will always be working on things that will affect the outcome o the entire system.
There are myriad ways to improve the flow of anything through its own process and thereby create an environment of overall operational improvement. Here are few of the most popular methods.
Reduce duplication or fragmentation of tasks
Combine similar activities
Move sequential tasks and activities closer together
Eliminate unused data
Standardize forms, operations and instructions
Remove artificial delays
Clearly, when you’re analyzing a process, you have to have something to measure. If you’re not measuring something directly related to the performance of the process, then you’re not evaluating the process properly. What’s worse, if you have nothing to measure, then you’ll have no way to assess the impact of any changes that might be made to the process in the name of improvement. That said, there are really three different levels of measurement available to the analyst that serve to reflect the condition of the process under study as well as the company as a whole.
Operational Level Measurement Metrics – These low level metrics measure the outcome of day-to-day operations. Although they are the most common metrics available to the analyst, a few simple rules should be followed in their selection. Simply put, only select measures that are logical, relevant and sound for the process under study. Secondly, try to select measures that are not only easy to understand but relate to real world processes. Finally, try to use measures that are commonly found in similar businesses, are a natural byproduct of the process itself and have been used successfully in the past. Some of these metrics are:
- Cycle Time
- Production Cost
- Defect Rate
- Production Rate
The Importance of Communication
Communication is probably the single most important part of Process Improvement. Every step of the way, it’s vital that meetings be held with the stakeholders, Improvement Team members and managers to insure that everyone knows what’s happening, what impressions are forming and what plans are evolving as a result. At each meeting, the Process Owner or the leader of the Improvement Team should summarily review activities, findings and circumstances, as they currently exist so that everyone will know and feel free to question activities as they are progressing. In fact, to achieve the best results, a concentrated effort should be made to make certain that not only is everyone informed but that they are fully knowledgeable of:
- The current state of the metrics selected to evaluate the process under study
- The problem focus the Improvement Team is dealing with.
- The project’s organization and workflow.
- The Process under study, if not in great detail then at least from end to end so that everyone is ready to formulate needed decisions.
The “Redesign” Step
Key Components and Concepts of the “Redesign” Step
The third step in the PI process builds on the foundation laid in the previous step and forms the basis for all steps to follow. In fact, once an existing process is understood, evaluated and documented, re-design can take place. In most cases, this step is the most ambitious. It can incorporate anything from developing future process flow diagrams and models to selecting best practices to be followed as benchmarks in the establishment of new process flows. Most often, this step is also that point in the improvement process where alternatives are not only recognized but agreed on by the managerial team. Here are the sub-steps for the Redesign Step and the Discussion Points that follow.
Step 3: Redesign
- Identify and chart an ideal “to be” model of what the future process should look like.
- Develop and build a computer model of the new process.
- Using the same metrics employed in the Analyze step, compare new and old model performance under identical conditions and assumptions.
- Identify best practices found in similar processes and incorporate those practices in the new model.
- Identify wide sweeping alternatives to the process as a whole.
- Again using the metrics defined above, evaluate and discuss the reaction of the new model to the problems initially identified in Step 1.
- Present the new or ideal model to management for comments and approval.
Redesign, a “Mopping up” process
The redesign of a process doesn’t happen all at once. Even small processes can contain surprises which, once encountered can befuddle the most capable analyst. So, redesign is an iterative process. That means that redesign takes place over a time horizon during which members of the Improvement Team and others are encouraged to suggest ways in which a process should be changed to improve its metrics. They are then presented with a parade of progressive models, one by one, that reflect the suggested changes until everyone agrees that nothing more can be gained by additional changes.
To insure that this iterative process occurs as smoothly as possible, the following steps are suggested to take the Team from the old process to the new in as little time as possible.
- Each team member should be given a list of the common methods used to improve process flows, a list of the defined metrics that are being used to measure process evolution and improvement, and a summary of all of the assumptions, findings and outcomes of the different process improvement steps.
- If modeling tools are being used to assess changes in processes, meetings should be scheduled as soon as possible following model runs so that no impetus is lost in the redesign process.
- An active comparison chart of the metrics selected for evaluation should be maintained by the Improvement Team so that team members can see what progress is being made in the improvement process.
- A final minimum variation goal (MVG) should be established to signal when little more is to be gained by making additional changes to the process under study. When the variation level is reached, the improvement process should be considered concluded and the team should make immediate plans to move to Implementation. An MVG can be nothing more than a statement that says, once ten different trials have been completed and no more than a .5% improvement in a given metric has been achieved, no further trials or changes will be considered.
- All redesign efforts conclude with a presentation of results and recommendations first to the team itself and then to management for review and approval.
The value of optimization!
It’s not at all uncommon for analysts to relax their vigilance once an analytical goal has been reached. Under no circumstances should a Process Improvement Team follow suit! Rather, it’s vital that not only is a model of a suggested process produced but that it is evaluated from several different perspectives. To that end, the final “To Be” model should be subjected to as many of the following modeling situations as possible and the measurement metrics evaluated for unique or unusual behavior before any process is submitted for implementation.
- A full range of test scenarios developed from existing cases.
- A full range of test scenarios based on expected “extreme” but realistic situations.
- Multiple runs of a set of routine or standard scenarios to detect the potential for unusual albeit rare process behavior.
Evaluating Outcomes – The “Golden Rules”
The true value of a revised process isn’t always apparent. In fact, small gains in financial savings may appear bigger than they are once taken out of the business context in which they were derived. Accordingly, here are a few recommendations that might prevent you from drawing conclusions about the value of a process change that doesn’t really fit.
- Always evaluate the impact of process change on a given metric in the context of other process and project information. No measurement result is good or bad by itself; rather, it only indicates the possibility of a problem not the cause.
- Measurements should be collected as a natural part of the process itself, not as an artificial construct.
- When it comes to metrics, stick to a level of detail that’s sufficient to identify and analyze problems.
- Be systematic in your approach to measuring outcomes. If you’re not, you could have a great deal of trouble determining just where cause and effect come into play given changes in a process.
Presenting to Management
The secrets to presentation success are very simple and require little explanation.
Because a poor presentation can mean the difference between securing management approval for process change and not, it might be helpful to make note of some of the ways to look like a champion:
- Lead with a summary of what has been accomplished before getting into the practical details. In presentation parlance, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them – concisely, quickly and honestly.”
- Follow your summary with your recommendations, again concisely but not quickly. Consider having each member of the team whose area is affected by the recommended changes, make the respective recommendations.
- If the presentation is to secure approval, have a summary sheet ready for each recommendation with a signature block ready at the bottom of the sheet for the approving authority’s approval or disapproval.
- Get the management team involved in your presentation by using the animation of the simulation to show the principles of the change. If this is done in the proper order it will have a dramatic effect on your success.
- Introduce how it works.
- Show an area of particular interest.
- Show the scope of the work that was accomplished to support the recommendations.
- This single step sets you apart form the every other presentation that the management team will see in the course of the year. They will see how you arrived at your conclusions and feel confidence in your recommendations.
- Always be prepared to offer further justification for any recommended solution. Offer your best and most significant reasons first and then follow with additional justification if asked.
- Make sure the decision maker relieves a full sent of any facts, reports or graphics you intend to present so that they can review them at their leisure later. Send the information to their office or present them to the manager only after your presentation.
- Always summarize what has transpired at the end of the presentation. Again, be concise and quick.
If you receive approval in the meeting, sit down and shut up. I have watched several presenters talk their way out of project approvals, because they didn’t stop when they had made the sale. Enjoy the moment – now the real work begins.
The “Implement” Step
Key Components and Concepts of the “Implement” Step
The forth step in the PI process builds on the foundation laid in the previous step and forms the basis for all steps to follow. Possibly, the hardest, most critical step on the road to process improvement, implementing changes in process flows, measurement metrics, and managerial responsibility can be traumatic. Without this step however, nothing accomplished in the first three steps matters. Despite its criticality, the process of implementation is really fairly straightforward. It begins with the development of an implementation plan and ends when all planned changes have taken place. Here are the sub-steps for the Implement Step and the Discussion Points that follow.
Step 4: Implement
Evaluate the new process model for phased or sudden-death implementation.
- Develop an implementation plan.
- Appoint an Implementation Coordinator.
- Evaluate the cultural impact of the implementation of the new process and develop a comprehensive change program to accommodate expected responses.
- Get everyone’s fingerprints on the knife!
- Present the final plan to management for comment and approval.
Finger Prints on the Knife
As is the case with all aspects of management, cooperation at all levels is essential if implementation of a new Process Plan is expected to go smoothly. To that end, it’s vital that everyone involved be appraised of what’s about to happen, how long it will take, the benefits of implementation, and how aspects of the current process are about to change. Informed regularly and honestly, people’s fears normally associated with change will disappear and a greater degree of cooperation will ensue. In short, an informed population is more likely to take faster ownership of a new idea than a population simply forced to accept circumstances.
Implementation Catch Points
Two basic elements need to be considered when planning the implementation of process change. As simple as that may sound, these elements are responsible for more problems implementing process improvements than any other. They are:
While a single activity process can be changed in a few minutes, a process consisting of hundreds or even thousands of activities could take a year or more. That means that part of a process may easily be working under different leadership doing vastly different tasks while another continues as usual. To plan for and manage a large scale process change requires the use of computerized flow-charting and project management software. Settling for anything less, risks losing not only momentum for change but also the accurate revision of the process itself.
Where scale represents size, complexity speaks to the notion of the presence of myriad tasks that may or may not be similar in function or even related in form or outcome. Accordingly, it’s vital that implementation plans include supporting activities for all sub-processes contained within a major process. In addition, it’s equally vital that consideration be given to the difference in requirements mandated by the types of activities being implemented. The following is a partial list of requirements that should be programmed for various activities within a given process:
a. Equipment needed
b. Training needed
c. Policies and Procedures needed
d. Facilities/work spaces needed
e. Forms needed
f. Computer Programming needed.
Sudden Death VS Phased Implementation
Occasionally, a term comes along that completely describes a situation or circumstance with such accuracy that no further information or explanation is necessary. “Sudden Death,” is certainly one of those. Taken from the computer programming industry, it’s generally used to reflect a situation where a computer program is placed into immediate production (use) without backup, parallel safety systems or redundant alternate programs operating in the background. In short, a programmer who uses sudden death implementation is risking everything on the chance that a program just might not work, ergo the term sudden death. Despite its nefarious definition, sudden death implementation of a process improvement plan doesn’t have to imply mayhem and horror. Well, not if certain rules are followed. Here’s what they are:
- The greater the number of organizations a process spans, the greater the argument for Phased Implementation of planned changes.
- All processes that occur within or span a single department are candidates for sudden death implementation of process change.
- The decision line between Phased Implementation and Sudden Death generally occurs around the ten-activity curve. In other words, a process with ten or less activities can usually sustain the shock of complete revision without meltdown as long as a comprehensive implementation plan is created and followed.
- Possibly the two most important aspect of any implementation plan, regardless of style, are the establishment of deadlines for designated changes and the assignment of specific responsibility for those changes.
Implementation Plan Contents – Making the New Process come to Life!
The implementation plan for a single-activity process change can be as simple as an email announcement that establishes the time and place the change will occur. That’s rare though. Normally, even the simplest processes contain sufficient complexity and scale to warrant a detailed plan with supporting documentation to insure the timely and accurate change of a current process. In fact, to be completely prepared, the Implementation Coordinator should make certain that the plan itself contains each of the following:
- A copy of the initial flow chart depicting the old Process.
- A copy of the final flow chart depicting the new “To Be” Process.
- A Gantt chart showing each of the activities within the process undergoing change and when the activities are scheduled to begin and end.
- Where needed, a description of the work to be done to add/change/alter each activity in the Gantt chart.
- A list, by name, of personnel with assigned responsibilities for each of the planned changes.
- A list of material and support requirements necessary to insure the timely revision of each activity.
- A copy of the approval letter for the planned changes signed by the approving authority.
The “Evaluate” Step
Key Components and Concepts of the “Evaluate” Step
The fifth step in the PI process builds on the foundation laid in the previous step and forms the basis for a new cycle of continuous Process Improvement through vigilance. The last but not “final” step in the improvement process, this step is continuous. It begins with the design of an evaluation plan but never ends. Rather, once the plan is accepted and implemented, it is continually updated and the process it is evaluating is continually changed and improved. Here are the sub-steps for the Evaluate Step and the Discussion Points that follow.
Step 5: Evaluate
- Develop an evaluation plan to insure periodic process review.
- Establish plan goals and “triggers” that would signal the need for further Improvement methods once a cycle review is completed.
- Build a set of “situational standards” that would signal the need for an out-of-cycle process review.
- Prepare recommendations for future process improvements and changes not possible due to technological or financial constraints.
- Prepare an after action report and store all supporting documentation in a safe place.
The purpose of an Evaluation Plan – Monitoring!
An Evaluation plan actually serves a dual purpose. Because a model can’t possibly represent all aspects of reality, there’s no way to be absolutely certain that a Process Improvement plan will actually improve a process to the degree planned. You can get pretty close but you can’t be perfect in your forecast. In fact, there’s irrefutable evidence that simply paying attention to a business process will often cause it to change to a degree that exceeds expectations without a manager actually altering the way things are done. So, things need to be monitored. The Evaluation plan serves first as an immediate “sensor” available to measure the performance of the new process both as it’s being implemented and when it’s finally fully in place and operating normally. It also serves as an on-going sensor established to detect, over time, changes in either process performance or situational parameters that might affect process outcomes.
Evaluation Plan Contents
The contents of the Evaluation Plan should be determined based on the needs of the organization and the purpose of the process under evaluation. In the simplest sense and to achieve the purposes listed above, it should contain the following:
- A copy of the Process Flow Plan
- A list of the metrics selected to evaluate process performance including:
- The expected statistical parameters associated with each metric
- A description of what each metric means and how it is to be measured.
- A sampling plan showing how statistical samples are to be taken.
- A CD containing a copy of the model used to project expected performance metrics.
- A schedule for future evaluations, showing when evaluations will take place, who has responsibility for collecting the data and to whom the resulting information will be sent.
- A list of “triggers” or metric values that might signal the need for further evaluation of the process. Such triggers may be internal or external to the process and may as simple as the occurrence of an extreme metric value. They may also be situational in nature and may include such things as the discontinuation of some portion of a product line.
It wouldn’t be prudent to end this Process Improvement Guidebook without a summary that takes advantage of what you’ve probably learned about Process Improvement itself.
Let’s go back to the beginning and take another look at things from a different angle.
Did you notice how neatly everything fit into the Five “General” Steps to Process Improvement – Identify, Analyze, Re-design, Implement and Evaluate? That’s because every process has to have a skeleton to hang its activities on. Without that framework, a lot of peripheral information needed to make things more understandable might be lost. So, each general step contains a lot more information than you might need to achieve a rapid, accurate, assessment of a process. That’s where Process Improvement itself takes over.
To fully appreciate and get the most use from any process – and Process Improvement IS a process! – you have to strip away the varnish and look at the “value-added” steps themselves. In other words, you have to find those steps that contribute directly to the final product, the outcome that you, the customer, is really interested in. Sometimes that’s most easily done using a memory-jogging, cleverly designed list of key points.
Did you notice that several of the key sub-steps have the same beginning letter?… that that letter is, “M.” These words or phrases are the value-contributing steps in the overall Process Improvement process itself. We call them the, “MI-6.” – the Mighty Important Six! They are…