Is Your Business Ready to Start Undertaking Large Process Improvement Projects
There are a number of effective and successful process improvement methodologies, with the most popular being Lean and Six Sigma. They can be extremely beneficial to a business and can increase its competitiveness by a large factor, while making it more efficient and productive.
Before implementing one of these major initiatives, you need to make sure that your business is in a position where it can extract all the potential benefits. You need to make sure that your business is receptive to the changes that need to happen, and has the mindset to deal with the amount of problems that will be identified. The problems already exist, but these initiatives will expose them, and make them obvious, which often makes it seem like they are new problems caused by the initiative. This can be confusing for many companies, who don’t realize this is normal at the beginning of a new improvement program.
There are businesses that are simply not ready for implementing major projects of that kind, so before deciding to do so, one should evaluate their business’ readiness. If they determine that the business is ready, they can proceed and are likely to reap a lot of benefits from doing so. If their business isn’t ready for such changes, it would be a much better idea to work on increasing its readiness before proceeding with project improvement.
So what factors should you consider to determine this?
Proficiency and Competence
As you probably know, project improvement is a discipline of its own, and doing it well requires knowledge, experience and even certification (such as Six Sigma Black Belts). This means that before you can implement a particular methodology, your management team needs to have secured access to enough competence and experience to ensure a proper implementation. Ideally, the management team has been trained and has experience in the methodology, so they can properly communicate and lead the initiative.
If they don’t have the experience and knowledge, that needs to be addressed first. Often times, there are people within the company with this expertise who are not using their skills today, and could be moved into a position to lead the initiative. The advantage is that they already know the business and have built up some credibility. But they need to have the right skill set for working with management and workers. Just having the training and knowledge is not enough.
If there are no internal employees with the proper background, they can hire experts into the company (create a new position), or use external consultants. No matter how you secure your access to well-trained and experienced professionals, you need to make sure that you have enough of them to carry your process improvement efforts to success. This is especially true for methodologies like Six Sigma, where complex statistical tools play an important role. If there aren’t professional that have a deep understanding of the framework and its tools, there is no way for the methodology to be properly implemented.
The first part of business readiness is to have the leadership trained in the methodology first, and have access to expertise on planning the roll out of the program.
Implementing a process improvement methodology is never an easy or a small task, and it should never be done on the side. It’s something that is going to have far-reaching effects, so it needs to be treated as the crucial undertaking that it is, otherwise it is going to be doomed to failure. It’s very important to understand that implementing something like this is a resource-intensive task, and an organization needs to be able to allocate the needed resources to go through with it.
One of the most important resources to be allocated is management. If everybody involved in the process improvement efforts is doing it part-time, failure is very likely. When the main people that are supposed to oversee and guide the process improvement efforts of a particular organization have other day-to-day tasks, it’s very likely for them to get caught up in the daily issues of their job, and not have time to work on the process improvement plan. This is why having at least one top-level manager dedicated to working on the process improvement efforts throughout the organization is essential, and might even require multiple resources depending on the size of the company. A best practice is to have a process improvement top-level leader and at least one dedicated process improvement expert.
Besides that, implementing such a methodology always requires effort and time from management and staff at every possible level and department, so this is something that needs to be planned for and the resources required should be secured. If a business cannot allocate a full-time manager and full-time expert, implementing a process improvement methodology might not be feasible at that particular moment in time. There needs to be both top-level support for the project and motivated and dedicated employees that are ready for change.
Despite the fact that implementing a process improvement methodology implies change, the company should actually be organizationally stable to provide the proper environment for it. If an organization is undergoing some other type of restructuring, merger or replacing important parts of its management team, the time would not really be right to begin with the process improvement efforts. All process improvement methodologies require a certain level of process standardization and data about the outcomes. If an organization is undergoing some sort of rapid change, everything will be skewed, and there will be no way for the methodology to yield the desired results. We’ve also seen organizations try to start an initiative when key leadership has not been replaced, or they’ve been out on medical leave, and that makes it very difficult to make any progress. That’s why such efforts should only be started when the business has reached some basic level of organizational stability, and is not in turmoil. This is another reason methodologies like Lean and Six Sigma should not be viewed as a way to solve crises or short-term operational problems.
Because of all the reasons above, it’s essential to first evaluate your business readiness to successfully implement a large process improvement project before giving it the green light.
The key criteria are as follows:
- Management trained
- Management willing to deal with problems
- Dedicated management position
- Dedicated experts (internal or consultants)
- Stable management team
If the business is not ready for the undertaking for some reason, it might end up hurting its competitiveness, instead of bolstering it, which is by no means desirable and could be avoided with the proper preparation.
To learn more about starting a Six Sigma initiative, check out our Six Sigma videos >>>