A Method for Engaging People in Improvement

I’ve come up here with a sort of four stage methodology for engaging people in improvement. The first stage is that we get to know our people. And we work with them to pick a process that needs improving. Secondly, we understand the purpose of the process from the point of view of the customer, and that enables us to understand the problems and constraints in the process. Thirdly, we identify and test possible solutions to those problems and constraints. And we implement the best of them. Fourthly, we start all over again, in another process, or another part of the same process, and management all the while providing support and training for this activity. Let’s look at these steps in turn then. And the first step is to get to know your people. Walk the floor, visit the offices, talk to everyone get their views On the process that you want to look at, they will know what the problems are, they will know what feedback is coming back from customers, they will know what sort of maintenance work has had to be done or repair work, you’ll begin to get a feel for the effectiveness of the business processes in the organization. And you can start to then get a feel for the most dysfunctional processes in the business. Those are the ones that you can want to start improving first. So once we’ve done that, we can move on and pick a process. We want to identify a process where we’re going to start our improvement activity. And this will be one of the dysfunctional processes that you’ve identified by talking to people throughout the organization. By talking to customers. You want to pick a process that causes lots of grief, because then the improvements will be clear to see for everyone and that will boost momentum for further improvement. Ideally, it should also be a process which impacts the customers and causes them problems too, because then customer satisfaction will start to rise as those issues and problems are dealt with, then we move on to stage two. And the first part of stage two is to understand the purpose of the process. We saw this earlier, it’s the customer who defines the purpose of the process, in terms of the outputs that they want the delivery performance that they want, the quality that they want, and so on. So if we talk to the process team, and agree with them, what the process should be from the point of view of the customer, we can talk also to the customers themselves to get what their requirement is, in terms of price, service, delivery, quality, and so on. The questions we should be asking, Who are the customers of the process? What outcomes do they actually want? And by contrast, what are we delivering that they don’t want? For example, what do those customers value about the process as it currently works? And importantly, what do the customers not value about the process? What do they not like what’s not working for them, that will give you a list of problems to start to work on. Secondly, at this step, we want to then identify the problems and constraints. So we began to do this already by talking to the customers talking to the process team. And we now want to work with the process team to identify all the problems and constraints in the process, as it currently works in detail. given some training and support work with a team to map the process, we saw the value stream mapping tool earlier in this course. And that is probably the most important improvement tool of the whole armory. We need to understand how the process works through all the patterns of demand Each day, each week each season and through any other conditions that apply and maybe affect the process flow. And by doing that, by mapping the problem, we can identify the constraints, the bottlenecks, the risk points, the points where errors and rework occur, and so on. Then we move on to the third stage. And the first part of that is to identify and test possible solutions. Again, we work with a process team. They are the improvement team for that process. And we help them identify possible solutions to the constraints, the problems, the bottlenecks, delays, and risks that we’ve identified. And we need to be able to test those solutions in a safe environment, which won’t perhaps impact the customer at this stage. So this might be an offline simulation process, or it might be a small test process parallel to the main process. Where we can test different ideas and different approaches. When we’re improving the process, we need to retain sufficient controls so that financial property is maintained and risk is minimized. But we also want to avoid excessive checking. And then the second part of Step three is to implement the best solutions. We identify the best solutions to the process problems, barriers, constraints, delays and risks through the activity that we’ve just seen testing them out in a safe environment. And solutions which remove barriers with minimal risk and with no knock on consequences are the ones that we want to choose. We should engage early with other teams who may be impacted by the process changes that we make, because the aim is to improve the whole end to end process is not to push problems down the line, or to pass them on to other teams or to otherwise create conflict and management needs to support the solutions providing air cover and other support as needed. The fourth stage of our improvement methodology is to start all over again. improvement is a continuous and iterative process, we never completely improve a process in the first go at it, we need further review time, we need to see things in operation before we can further improve them. So we need to encourage the team to start again, further refining the same process, picking a new part of the process or starting work on another process all together. And involvement in improving their own work processes in this way, is a great way to get people involved and enthused in improvement activity and really build their commitment to the organization. By building on this energy and experience. We will soon be able to show significant impacts At the top level, by the law of marginal gains as we saw it costs, profits and customer satisfaction will all start to improve. But we need to be willing to share those gains. employees need to have a share of the gains made the improvements made through profit sharing and similar schemes. And this will further boost engagement, as people see that they are working to improve their own lifestyle, their own conditions, as well as benefiting the organization. And the second part of stage four is that management provides support and training. So management become the facilitators of change and improvement. They need to set the tone for improvement to take hold. They need to lead by example, as we’ve already discussed, not to allocate blame for problems that arise but to realize that it’s issues with the process that will cause errors and problems. regular time needs. needs to be devoted to improvement, perhaps half a day per week per team, which is quite a significant commitment from the organization. But this is a core requirement of improvements rather than a nice to have. Training and problem solving skills is essential. And we’ve seen some of those skills and tools earlier in this course. managers or all levels need to encourage improvement activity, and also the discussion of problems and ideas without trying to allocate blame, or point the finger. As we’ve said, People do what you count, rather than necessarily what counts the workforce will look to the example left by management and will follow the things that they pay attention to. So management must focus on the tools, skills and values of improvement.