Choosing the Right Improvement
by Tom McBride
Creative Solutions, Inc.
Most business leaders realize that continual improvement is needed for an
organization to be strong and vital. Unfortunately, improvement project choices
are often made based on the “pain of the moment”, personal agendas or other
biases. Given limited resources, it is important to select the “critical
few” improvements that will provide the greatest organizational benefit.
Good News! There is a simple structured process to help identify and
prioritize your “critical few”. More
sophisticated models exist, but the following thought process will serve many
strategic goals. What
needs to be achieved or improved? What 3-5 results are critical to the
success of your business?
key processes. A key
process contains a series of cross-departmental steps required to produce a
product or service. For example,
three key processes could be the sets of steps required to provide new
equipment, repair parts, and aftermarket repair services.
major sub-processes. Draw
a simple diagram for each key process that shows its major steps.
Avoid going into fine detail. Examples
of sub-processes might include quote preparation, order entry, procurement,
scheduling, packaging, and shipping.
supporting processes. These
usually support the organization as a whole
and may not be part of any key process.
Hiring, invoicing, and training are examples.
measurements. Choose 1-2 measurements that would monitor performance
of each sub- and supporting process, considering both effectiveness and
average time a customer waits in line, or the number of customer complaints
performance. Use a 1-5
scale, with “1” being terrible and “5” being world-class to rate
each sub- or supporting process, based on measurements created in step #5.
Existing information may be sufficient to rate some processes, but
for others you may need to collect data for a period of time (maybe 30
days). Poorly performing
processes will be your candidates for improvement.
impact on your strategic goals (step #1).
Evaluate the impact of fixing each candidate, and assign an “impact
score” of 1-5 with “5” being the most beneficial.
the cost and difficulty to “fix” each candidate.
Assign a “5” for quick, low cost improvements and a “1” to
difficult, costly fixes.
an “opportunity” score for each candidate by multiplying the impact and
cost/difficulty scores from steps 7 and 8.
2-3 processes having the higher “opportunity” scores and develop
improvement initiatives within these. Resist any temptation to choose only high-impact
candidates, since some with lesser impact may be more worthy projects.
Using this process will help the management team analyze and better
understand the organization's opportunities for improvement.