Executing a Continuous Improvement Plan

Beau Groover
Tags: continuous improvement

Every plan for continuous improvement should follow a path based on performance metrics for quality, cost, delivery and safety. For each of these groups, you should have 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 should have communicated the plan and the reasons why you are going after certain items on the plan. It is now time to execute. 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 continuous improvement 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. This may include questions about volume, customer mix, new products, standard vs. special systems, days of the week, geography, etc.

My 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 define-measure-analyze-improve-control (DMAIC) 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, consider the following:

At the end of each of these activities, don’t forget to update your posting(s) and communicate the activities to others. You also need to chart and track the results to make sure that your efforts are yielding the results you seek.

Remember, what you want 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.