It has been a long and often bumpy road in my role as a Lean Six Sigma/Quality Consultant and trainer. I suspect 80% or more of our readers can relate to that statement and have earned their fair share of bumps and bruises!
As the years have crept by, I have this growing feeling that I am coming full circle, having experienced the deep dark waters of statistics (thank you Dr. Harry… it was a game changer) and been immersed in the practicality of Lean (and the requisite paradigm shifts).
Notwithstanding these absolutely cool and powerful tools in the improvement tool box, I often find myself focusing on “process management 101” with my project teams, process owners and sponsors. Overwhelmingly in the service sector, there is an absence of basic process management tools and standards and one can’t help but think that, if these tools and standards were being employed, many of the current improvement projects would have never come into existence thereby enabling continuous improvement resources to focus on higher-value process capability opportunities… maybe even a few strategic ones.
What should be in that requisite tool box that ALL process managers should be trained in?… Here are my favourite “vital few”;
1. Current (and accurate) process flow map including relevant decision diamonds, delays, and (not so) hidden factories.
2. Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) with associated "action plan" which might serve as that manager's continuous improvement "strategy" if they don't already have one. FMEA coupled with error-proofing (aka "poka yoke") is a fabulous tool set, especially for service sector organizations.
3. Standard work associated with the process flow (and evidence these standards are being audited for compliance).
4. Control charts and Control Plans in support of associated processes (and the team trained on how to use them).
5. Capability studies... KEEP SCORE! MEASURE WHAT MATTERS! Know what your service level targets and how they are aligned with organizational strategy and voice of the customer.
6. Gemba walk: a "Lean Leader" imperative to "go see" and routinely "walk the process", "observe" and engage with the staff. Let the staff know that the manager's role is to remove barriers that get in the way of the team's efforts (individually and collectively) to create value.
I can't help but think if organizations could deploy this as a strategy, similar to Lean's workplace organization (5S, standard work, visual workplace), whereby process managers are "certified" in this basic tool box, process capability would improve dramatically, firefighting and heroics would diminish, risk would go down, and a lot of freed up capacity could be reinvested in the customers and communities those organizations are in business to serve.
To learn more about these tools and our "Lean/Lean Six Sigma Champion" Certificate programs, please visit https://www.leansixsigmacoach.com/store.