Driving successful operations improvement requires both top down and bottom up collaboration. To pull it off the organization must start with a plan. Most organizations realize that improvement is necessary and often imperative for survival, especially in the current economic climate. The burning question for the leadership team is always, “Where do we start?”
To answer the question requires looking across the organization from a supply chain viewpoint. Start by going in reverse order from the services, or products, that you deliver to your customers and work your way backward through your processes until you are at the supplier level. Keep this at a high level, let’s say no more than 10 steps.
Put together a cross functional team that easily represents, or has knowledge of, the details with your high level supply chain model that is comprised of no more than 10 process steps. Have your team brainstorm about your customer’s expectations for your organization to be considered the number one provider of your services or products. Then rate and rank these with a simple prioritization matrix, or a QFD Matrix (Quality Function Deployment). Now you have a good idea as to what your customer requirements are.
The next step is to brainstorm about each of the process steps as to their influence either positively or negatively toward your organizations ability to meet the prioritized customer requirements. Did this investigation uncover any waste or issues within the supply chain? How impactful are those issues or waste with regard to fulfillment of customer requirements? Once again, use a simple prioritization matrix to prioritize the issues and the waste.
Now the leadership team can build the priority based plan of attack for Operations Improvement. Now you know where to start the improvement activities and also have an idea about the benefits once the issues are resolved. Remember that you can’t fix everything all at once, but you can tackle 2 to 3 high priority issues at once. Then work your way through the rest of the priority list.
Repeat the review and prioritization process every six months even if the list has not been finished. Your business is dynamic and things do change. That’s the plan for Operations Improvement.