Saturday, May 03, 2008

Simple Process Improvement Rules

Processes are not unique with the types of non-conformances and communication breakdowns. In fact a vast amount of processes can be improved quickly through aggressive application of basic standardization and use of standard solutions. Basic approaches of value added flowcharting, and fast-cycling removal of non-value added activity (i.e. process steps that relate to fixing a problem or compensate for poor performance somewhere else in the process) through cross functional group participation would be very productive.


Every task/work activity must have a standard process. The process should be recorded and executed as consistently as possible across workers and cross-functional structures.

1. Every process has measures that track outputs and key input control indicators.

2. For critical customer “failure points”, contingency plans must be developed.

3. Every process should have a process owner who is accountable for process integrity and performance based on customer (not functional) expectations. The owner, together with client/providers in the process, establish a natural (non-exclusionary) process improvement team, functional association is irrelevant.

4. Team members are accountable for collecting and analyzing data, and developing countermeasures that will produce improved results or efficiencies and/or remove customer failure points.

5. A process needs a performance target that lies outside the current established performance limits (determined analytically, or by decree).

6. Each team member is responsible for understanding the main purpose of the process (end-end perspective) and how it influences/impacts other processes.

7. If a process demonstrates a high probability of failing, process workers are responsible for enacting the appropriate contingency plan to avoid the failure or eliminate the effect of the failure. If no contingency plan exists, process workers must create a procedural policy without haste and without waiting for management approval.

8. All customer-affecting processes must support to a corporate set of values and rules. These processes should be periodically reviewed for conformance.

9. Those process workers with data and appropriate analytic methods best make decisions, as close to the process activity as possible; Situations exist, however, that require senior leaders to make decisions without full consent of process workers. These are dangerous and can lead to many downstream problems if the senior leader is not a “Systems Thinker.”

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