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Driving Process Excellence in 2017

By Dale Lawrence

Thinking about building internal continuous improvement capabilities? Before you jump in, we can help. We have designed and trained employees for internal process teams. We can help you make your capabilities better and the employees more productive.

It’s all about the outcome

Have you invested in Process Excellence training but failed to get the ROI you were expecting? Getting funding for training like Lean, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints/ Process re-engineering can be challenging. You have to justify the expense to leadership then deliver results.

The problem for many organizations is that they simply replicate a process excellence approach that’s worked well for another company. They follow the same process and hope to get the same results. It seems to make sense but it doesn’t. Hope isn’t a strategy: strategy is strategy.

What works for others, may not work for you

It’s all too easy to listen to a big consulting shop telling you what you ‘need’ to do: ‘Invest heavily in the internal skills and the financial returns will come’ or ‘look at how Lean made XYZ successful’ or ‘a management operating system is all you need’. These statements aren’t false, they just offer false hope. Too many business leaders don’t take the time to understand what is truly important before spending millions, or they don’t apply common sense before committing to time-consuming training.

Simply applying a methodology won’t get the results you want, you need to be clear about what your desired outcome is first.

Am I suggesting you don’t invest in process excellence methodology?
Absolutely not! Skills, training and the correct approach to solving business problems are vital. But the most important factor is whether your business problem is solved.

Operation Excellence is a means to an end, not the end itself. If you don’t achieve your outcome, who cares how ‘excellent’ your process was? And remember time is not on your side. If your competition is improving, you don’t have the luxury of completing the wrong process, hoping for the right outcome. Sometimes even doing nothing is better than wasting valuable time with the wrong methodology.

Focus on your real goal

Using ‘outcome’ as your real goal will free you up from being tied to a specific methodology. You can simply use what works. At Sentis, we’ve developed an innovative approach called Rapid Collaboration Improvement (RCI). It is fast, engaging and solves many cross-functional business problems. Your employees are directly involved in brainstorming the root causes of business problems and coming up with quick wins that can be implemented within 90 days. It’s worked really well for many clients, but we wouldn’t hesitate to stop preparing for an RCI event and switch to another tool (such as Lean, Six Sigma or a quick Kaizen effort) if it made sense. Remember, it isn’t about the method used; it is about the ‘outcome’ or solving the business challenge. You can’t solve every problem with Lean or any other methodology.

In fact, don’t stop there! I have seen truly amazing business results that started with a tough business challenge. After determining the sub-drivers for poor performance, we chose different approaches to improve each sub-driver. Each process improvement project leader within the overall effort was allowed the flexibility to use the approach that best improved the root-cause. And if the first approach didn’t work, the tool was changed quickly, so no time was wasted.

Have a range of options

Your team needs to be able to recognise that when something isn’t working, you change your approach fast. For this, they need to be able to apply more than one approach.
So don’t stop at training Lean, LSS or Rapid Collaboration Improvement. Make sure your team has a range of methodologies to call on.

Skill your team up

Also up-skill your best team members to be methodology experts so they can coach, mentor and guide your important Operational Excellence employees. Sometimes less-experienced team members may not recognise when they are struggling, so empower them to challenge progress and, if necessary, start over with another approach before time runs out.

At Propulo Consulting, we’ve helped many organizations build a lasting Centre of Excellence or internal capabilities and believe me, this works! So if you’ve tried using the same methodology in different situations and not got the right outcome, think about broadening your outlook. This is one area of life where the destination is definitely important than the journey!


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