A Return to First Principles (Part 11b), Unearthing the Treasure!

Process analysis and improvement are not for the faint of heart. There is a lot of work that has to take place. I hope the reader appreciates that what I am doing here is scratching the surface of analysis and improvement methods. There is much more to be said, and I have said it in other venues, but I have already given one free book and I at least need to keep something to sell someday.  🙂

But let’s continue our discussion of deducing the one, current-state best way when a number of workers have “their own way” of doing it. Keep in mind also that when undertaking an improvement effort, you should have two objectives: capture a description of the best way to perform the task, and educate the workers regarding the fundamentals of process, waste, desired outcomes and why finding the best way matters.

The quick description of the improvement process looks like this:

1. Establish a “top level” sequence of actions that collectively describe (or more accurately, outline) the process.

2. Review in detail each of the top level steps. Have workers define: what constitute the beginning and end point of the step, how they do it, and why they do it (what they are trying to accomplish by doing a step a certain way). Note: it may be necessary to construct multiple Purpose Maps, each with different sets of detail. Don’t forget, the harder you work at this, the greater your prospects of improvement.

3. Identify what is expected of the step: what are the desired outcomes at the end of the step. (This step may require the involvement of process designers or others  with specific knowledge.)*

4. Analyze the steps or actions in light of the desired outcomes, and classify each action in terms of the four possibilities described in Part 9 (no effect, meets desired outcome, fails to meet desired outcome, not sure).

5. Work the process! In short, the intent is to remove all actions with no effect, establish and standardize the actions that directly and positively impact desired outcomes, change the actions that aren’t working, and study to better understand what you don’t at present.

6. You are about ready to reduce the understanding of best practice to constant practice, through creation of the procedure.

* One way to evaluate desired outcomes is to look at the finished output and determine all of the factors that define the output as acceptable. If it’s a product, these may be communicated in terms of the Three Fs: form, fit or function. If I have a list of the desired outcomes, then I know that somewhere in the process I must impart each of these features, and retain them through the end of the process.

About Tim James "Mr. Procedure"

A communicator; all-purpose capability in writing, designing and presenting training for all facets of organizational function. While my focus has been manufacturing, my training/development experience includes supervisory and lead person development, audit processes, continuous improvement and Lean, and Quality Management System implementation.
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