In Part V of the series on Driving Continuous Improvement, we discuss the importance of utilizing the right combination of continuous improvement tools and data. This is where the rubber meets the road. Once you have your program aligned with your business strategy and you have built a roadmap for implementation, the continuous improvement team is faced with how to begin and how to measure success. This requires that the Continuous Improvement program steering committee clearly set measurable goals and objectives inside of clearly defined project charters. Each team will need to choose the best tools to use for implementation of each project. The chosen tools will generate the appropriate data for measuring success.
If you study Group50’s Business Hierarchy of Needs® shown below, you will see the roadmap to success is driven by a set of interconnected activities, tools, and data-driven goals and objectives, with accountability throughout the organization.
The strategic and operating gap analysis done in Level 1 will provide the steering committee with a full understanding of the issues to be addressed in the business if it is to fully realize its strategic potential. The next challenge will be to identify the projects and the methods required to address those gaps. Once done, continuous improvement teams need to identify the tools required to accomplish those projects.
Focusing on one methodology for continuous improvement can limit progress, diminish innovation and restrain the organization’s ability to realize its full continuous improvement potential. There is a long list of tools that can be used and no one program has or needs all of those. The needs of your strategic roadmap and the strategic operating gaps will dictate the required tools. Each team has a long list of tools and implementation approaches they will need to choose from. They include but are not limited to: Six Sigma, Lean Business, Kaizen, Value Stream Mapping, Business Process Re-engineering, DMAIC, SMED, KANBAN, DFMA, FMEA, Poka-Yoke, SPC, Agile, Hoshin Kari, Gemba Walks, The 5 Whys, etc. The list goes on and on, and we have training modules for all of them, because they are important, but should only be applied when needed.
The scalability and sustainability of a Continuous Improvement program requires various elements of all of these. Once the team identifies the appropriate tools for the company’s Continuous Improvement program, the team will need to develop an implementation roadmap and set goals and objectives for each project. These goals and objectives must be quantitative, otherwise the team is wasting their time. Sorry, but qualitative goals don’t pass the muster in my continuous improvement world. There will be various levels of skills in each functional organization and we take the approach that the most effective way to create proficiency with these tools is through experiential learning, e.g., deliver training for a tool or skill just-in-time as the project is being implemented.
Every Continuous Improvement program is unique because every company and its strategic objectives are unique. Don’t allow anyone to tell you that Six Sigma or Lean is all you need. This is no-one-size-fits all approach to continuous improvement. For those starting or wanting to reinvigorate their Continuous Improvement program, companies should work with a consulting firm who:
- Understands how to develop and implement a Continuous Improvement program that will move the strategic needle
- Understands the right set of tools, training and change management programs to help you develop and implement a Continuous Improvement program that is scalable and sustainable
- Has a full complement of training programs they can customize and deliver to your organization
These best practices have been proven over and over again and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Every Continuous Improvement program needs to be an integral part of helping a company reach its strategic objectives. Only then will the program become sustainable.
Check out all articles on Driving Continuous Improvement:
- Five Things You Need To Do To Drive Continuous Improvement – Introduction
- Part I – Five Things You Need To Do To Drive Continuous Improvement – Alignment To Strategy
- Part II – Five Things You Need To Do To Drive Continuous Improvement – Do Not Overdue At The Outset
- Part III – Five Things You Need To Do To Drive Continuous Improvement – Creating A Culture Of Strategic Execution
- Part IV – Five Things You Need To Do To Drive Continuous Improvement – Best Practices
- Part V – Five Things You Need To Do To Drive Continuous Improvement – Tools And Data
- Utilizing Continuous Improvement Tools At The Business Level
- Creating the Business Case For A Continuous Improvement Program Workshop
- Additional articles on Continuous Improvement in Group50’s blog
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About the Author: Jim Gitney, CEO and Founder, started Group50® Consulting in 2004 with the focus of working with companies to significantly improve their performance by leveraging people, process and technology as part of a company’s strategic plan. In 2013, he created Group50’s Business Hierarchy of Needs® change management framework, a fundamental operating guide to senior leadership teams, and was granted a trademark in 2015. He has held C-suite and Board positions in large and small manufacturing companies. He was a member of GE’s Quality Council, part of the team that developed and implemented Black & Decker’s global Total Quality Management (TQM) program, has led or participated in over 125 Kaizen events and is considered a subject matter expert in Continuous Improvement. Group50® consists of consultants from every functional discipline who have spent their careers in corporate America developing strategic plans and rolling up their shirt sleeves to get it done.
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