Continuing our discussion of process, the second characteristic of a process (and every step within a process) is:
2. There is one, current-state best way to perform the process.
Again, this principle is obvious–of course there is a best way to do anything! But actually identifying, defining, describing and driving performance of that “best way” is much more elusive.
Let’s look at a hypothetical example. Three workers, Joe, Sue and Tom, assemble bicycles. There is a written procedure for building the bicycles, which all three follow. The procedure describes the best way we know how to build the bicycles, where best means completing a high number of assemblies in an hour (productivity), assembling the bicycles properly (quality) and not being injured while assembling (safety).
At the end of a day, however, it is discovered that Joe assembled 20 bicycles, of which two had defects. Sue assembled 14 bicycles, of which none had defects. Tom assembled 17 bicycles, of which one had a defect, but also suffered a cut during work. Now, who performed the best?
You may make an argument for any of our three workers being “best” (i.e., their method being the best), but all would conclude they performed the activity diferently (despite working from the same procedure). So, which procedure qualifies as the one, current-state best way to assemble the bicycles?
The answer may surprise you, but it is likely that no one is performing the task in the one, current-state best way! It is more likely that the one best way is a combination of actions Joe, Sue and Tom perform. And while all three may be performing in accordance with the procedure, which is a good thing, we are not achieving the level of performance we could.
This occurs because process performance evolves, even in the absence of a formal improvement effort. Any one who has worked a multi-shift operation is aware of this: separate methods evolve on each shift. One shift may perform more satisfactorily than the others, but the true best way is likely a composite of the best performance elements of each shift.
For the supervisor, engineer or trainer, capturing and communicating this best way involves being connected to the work going on, which means being connected to the workers. We will have much more to say on how to make these connections in future posts. Until then, thank you for your continued reading!
Tim, Mr. Procedure