Apply Continuous Improvement to Any Project

Posted by Khris Bhattan on November 9, 2017
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One of the most critical elements of any continuous improvement project is managing all of its elements. The use of Lean Management tools helps in solving improvement opportunities and drive results in an organization. The Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) approach is a widely used tool to ensure project success and Continuous Improvement results.

Often, project managers and organization leaders move directly to what they may believe are the solutions to an improvement opportunity without going through the necessary steps of the PDCA model. Continuous Improvement projects vary in size and magnitude. It is important that a repeatable and sustainable process is used to manage projects. Projects that are not managed with this attention and structure often result in missed project deadlines, overrun project budgets and missed opportunities of applying new ideas and technology.

PDCA is a Lean Management tool that is used to reduce the risk of unsuccessful projects. It is an iterative approach to managing projects and driving execution to each of the elements of the approach. Following is an outline for each of the steps in the PDCA model and how to incorporate in managing projects.

What is the Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) Approach?

Creating a PDCA model is a simple yet effective way to manage the many fundamental and tactical elements of any internal Continuous Improvement project. The use of the PDCA model provides infrastructure around each of the 4 elements of the PDCA model.

PLAN

During the Planning phase of the project, there are many investigative inquiries that take place to further understand the current state of the business. Other tools such as Value Stream Mapping may be used to perform the baseline measurement and understanding of the current state of the business. During the Planning phase, leadership interviews, kick off date identification, data collection, resource planning, team identification, budget allocation, and Return on Investment (ROI) analysis takes place to ensure the project is worth the organizational investment.

DO

During the Do phase, it is important to have an engagement at every level of the team to move forward to the next phase. This phase can last from 3-5 days in an “all hands on deck” type of event also known as a Kaizen Event. During the Do phase, the improvement opportunities or bottlenecks of processes identified during the Planning phase are assigned small groups and tasks. The entire team drives all components to completion. In this phase, every team member should be actively involved and drive towards solutions. Thinking out of the box is great in this phase!

CHECK

The Check phase of the project is designated to ensure the changes that are made to systems and processes during the Do phase are working as intended. This phase requires a comprehensive measurement of data and compared to the initial data collection done in the Planning phase. The Check phase may be an iterative phase because of the results of the data analytics. If the data does not suggest an improvement, the cycle will have to be started over to understand where the system or process breakdown may have occurred.

ACT

The Act phase of the project is the sustainment phase of the project. This is also the phase where many projects falter due to lack of accountability of team members, employees, and leadership. It is important to continually monitor and measure systems and processes during this phase to understand when the PDCA model may need to be reinstated. In the spirit of Continuous Improvement, the ability to adapt to any future improvement opportunities is key to a sustainable and transparent Lean Management system.

Leadership Briefing Is Critical To Continuous Improvement

Once the team has achieved the intended outcome of the project, it is critical to follow through with a leadership briefing. The leadership stakeholders of the project are the reason your project was supported and endorsed. Set a date for the briefing and encourage the entire leadership team to attend. The involvement from the leadership team will fuel the engagement of smaller teams and start to foster a culture of Continuous Improvement. In the leadership briefing, review the PDCA and touch on key highlights of each of the phases. This effort is key to leadership support for the next project. Continuous improvement is infectious, once a taste of success is realized it is hard to deny the positive results.

Celebrate The Success of The Team!

Remember Continuous Improvement projects are never about the facilitator of the project and have everything to do with the those who participated in the project. Celebrate the success of the team! Take pictures, reward idea generation with movie tickets or something as simple as a pizza party can go a long way!

If your team or organization is striving to improve your processes, contact RTG Solutions Group for a free consultation.

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