Keys to Successful Operations Improvement

November 26th, 2010

Tags: Operations Improvement, performance measurement, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma

Operations improvement is not magic, but strategically focused hard work.  The keys to successful operations improvement include these five elements:

  • Performance Metrics tied to business goals and objectives
  • Leadership agreement on, and support for, select improvement projects
  • Project teams staffed for success
  • Project centric training
  • Accountability for timely successful project completion

Include these elements sequentially in the operations improvement plan as your strategy for success.

1. Performance Metrics tied to business goals and objectives

The leadership team reviews the goals and objectives for the business and selects the performance metrics that measure success.  Often, Quality Function Deployment (QFD) or a Prioritization Matrix is used to align and rank the performance metrics with the business goals and objectives.  The marching orders are now set for the improvement projects.

2. Leadership agreement on, and support for, select improvement projects

The leadership team reviews the processes across the supply chain from the beginning to the end.  Where are the issues?  Where do we fall short of expectations?  Where is the waste in the system?  These questions drive the brainstorming to identify potential improvement projects.  A list is made of the projects and incorporated into another QFD or Prioritization Matrix to align and rank the improvement projects with the rated and ranked performance metrics.  Using the matrices keeps the prioritization of the projects aligned with the business goals and objectives.

3. Project teams staffed for success

The leadership team focuses on the top four or five projects based upon the priorities they have agreed on using prioritization matrices.  The teams for these projects are selected from the best and the brightest personnel within the organization that have knowledge or skills relevant to the project.  Often these individuals are considered too important or too busy to work on improvements.  That is the reason for their selections.  These personnel decisions answer the question, “Are you serious about making improvements?”

4. Project centric training

Each project and its assigned team progress through the Lean Six Sigma training and apply the tools and techniques directly on their improvement opportunity.  As quickly as methods are learned they are applied to make progress toward the completion of the project following the train and do philosophy.  If the opportunity is a process improvement the methodology follows DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, and control).  If the opportunity is a design improvement the methodology follows DMADV (define, measure, analyze, design, and validate), or Design for Six Sigma.

5. Accountability for timely successful project completion

Success requires the leadership team and the improvement project teams be held accountable to complete the projects in a timely manner.  Deliverables based project plans focus the effort of the teams to move through the DMAIC, or DMADV, process phases successfully.  Phase exit reviews are held between the project and the leadership teams.  Phase exit reviews assure that all parties involved are held accountable to achieve successful strategically focused operations improvement.

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