Every organization seeks to improve performance, but not every organization is successful in improving performance.
The purpose of this blog is to provide organizations and individuals with thoughts, concepts, and advice on Performance Improvement. The underlying approach and methodology are described below:
Performance Improvement Methodology
A holistic approach to an entity’s improvement is taken using Systems Thinking techniques to identify the area or areas that are keeping the entity from fulfilling its purpose and value. Appropriate tools and methodologies (Lean, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, and Operations Analysis) are deployed and utilized to maximize the improvement efforts throughout the Performance Improvement Methodology Phases.
Taking a Systems view at the entity enables a focused approach to improvement that will drive real value to the entity and the bottom line.
For improvement efforts to be successful, people at all levels – executive, middle management, and frontline – must be involved and engaged. Too often, the people are ignored when entities engage in improvement efforts, and the efforts fail to meet expectations. By engaging and involving the people, they will take ownership of the improvements and it becomes “their” process.
A key to improvement activities is to focus on the process and not on who is to blame. Most people do not come to work each day planning to fail, but often times, the process either promotes, or does not deter that failure. Improvements typically require changes to behaviors, and to change the behavior of the people, a process focus is required.
Performance Improvement Approach
Define the purpose of the entity being evaluated. The entity could be a firm, department, workgroup, process, etc. Why does this entity exist? Define the entities customers.
What is the value the entity provides to the customer? Depending on who the customers are will determine how the value is measured (internal vs. external customers). The value could come in the form of a product or a service.
Determine and analyze how the entity creates value for the customer through a Value Stream Analysis (VSA). VSAs can be completed at strategic level where the overall value stream for the firm is analyzed, or at a tactical level where the value stream in a particular area is assessed. Critical to the success of a VSA is involvement of the people who actually perform the activities in the value stream, as well as executive and middle management involvement and support. Depending on the scope, a VSA can last 3 to 5 days.
The VSA will produce an improvement plan where the actions are placed in the following categories: Just-Do-It, Rapid Improvement Event (Kaizen), Project, or a more detailed VSA. This is an iterative phase that follows the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) improvement process. Key to the success of the improvements is involvement in the implementation of the actions by the people performing the tasks. It is important the actions become the ‘way they do things’ and not ‘something else that needs to be done.’
Sustaining the improvements is the most difficult piece of any improvement process. To help ensure the actions are sustainable, key metrics and control loops are established by the teams to enable monitoring and adjusting to current conditions. Leadership follow-up and process audits can also aid in sustaining the improvements.