Improve Phase
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Action Plan

Helps implement changes to the process

 

Why to use this tool?

Once we know what needs to be done to improve the process, we need a progress tracking plan. The action plan ensures continuous progress in implementing changes to the process.

 

 

How to use this tool?

 

Step 1: Define the individual actions to be implemented in the current process.

Step 2: Describe “why” these actions need to be performed.

Step 3: Describe which part of the end-to-end process will be affected.

Step 4: Reach consensus with the project team to see who will be willing to take ownership of the listed actions.

Step 5: Agree with the owner of the action on the start and end date of the action execution.

Step 6: Schedule regular (for example weekly) status meetings with the project team / action owners.

Step 7: Keep management informed on a regular basis (for example every 2-3 weeks) about the progress of the action plan.

 

 

When to use this tool?

 

Action plan is to be used in the improve phase.

 

 

3 Do´s and 3 Don’ts:

 

Do: Schedule regular status meetings in advance. The series of meeting should be sent as soon as the action plan has been established.

Do: Make sure owners of the action points are aware that their progress will be presented to management on a regular basis.

Do: Use the traffic light system for the status updates. It is not necessary to use the traffic light colors as some people are color blind and will not understand the status report. Sometimes it is better to use symbols or writing (green, yellow, red).

 

Don’t: Assign tasks to the project team. Ask the project team members who would like to take control of which action points.

Don´t: Forget that the person who came up with the action point might be the right person who would be motivated to take over the ownership of this task.

Don´t: Forget that the action owner does not need to be the one who makes the change. He/she should be the one to make sure the change is implemented. For example, the task owner may not be an IT changes expert, but they can make sure they are in contact with someone in the IT department to make changes to the process.

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Future State VSM

The optimized process

 

Why to use this tool?

 

To go from an old broken process to the new high performing process.

 

 

How to use this tool?

 

Step 1: Complete the current state VSM (separate video).

Step 2: Understand customer demand for a given family of products (including variation) to satisfy them. Here you can calculate the takt time (seen in a separate video).

Step 3: Identify 8 type of waste in each step of the process.

Step 4: Identify areas where you do not have continuous flow. This can be easily identified if you have waiting times in the process. This will automatically lead to a problem with continuous flow.

Step 5: Work on process alignment and resource allocation to adjust the workflow in regular cycle variations, depending on customer demand.

Step 6: Put all changes and ideas for improvement in the action plan (separate video) and present these proposals to management / project sponsor. Once it has been validated, the action owners can proceed to implement changes to the process.

 

 

When to use this tool?

 

In the improve phase.

 

 

3 Do´s and 3 Don’ts:

 

Do: The future state VSM right after creating the current state VSM.

Do: Write down the comments that were made during the current state VSM workshop as it will help you with the future state VSM. These comments are mostly indications of things that are not working properly in this process.

Do: Explain to SMEs your 4-step process (customer demand, simplify, continuous flow and leveling) to achieve the future state VSM. This will make it easier for them to follow. It is even recommended that the 4-step process be visible in the workshop and that a step that is currently being discussed can be pointed out regularly. Sometimes it is needed because these 4 steps are discussed during each of the major steps of the process. At times, one can lose people when they begin to feel tired. Therefore, it is always a good idea to recalibrate and point at the step we are working on right now.

 

Don’t: Allow lengthy discussion on one point about what happened in the past. Let the team know that the past is the past and now we are looking at what can be done in the future. Then collect ideas and suggestions.

Don´t: Forget to invite management to the final part of the workshop. They will have the opportunity to view and approve improvement proposals. In case they need further information on certain ideas, the team can clarify them immediately. Once the actions have been approved, we inform the management / project sponsor that we will schedule regular meetings with them to review the status and develop the action plan.

Don´t: Forget to update procedures and train employees on the new process after achieving the future state.

 
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Impact Matrix

For a quick consensus on the priorities

Why to use this tool?

 

To reduce time needed to prioritize improvement suggestions.

 

 

How to use this tool?

 

Step 1: Collect any ideas for improvement that arose during the brainstorming session.

Step 2: During the workshop with project team members, make sure that each improvement suggestion is on 1 post-it note.

Step 3: Make sure everyone knows the background of each of these improvement suggestions.

Step 4: Take one improvement suggestion (sticky note) and ask the group if the topic will have a high, medium, or low impact when implemented. You can visually show the sticky note moving up and down along the vertical axis of the impact matrix chart. Depending one everyone’s feedback, find the ideal level.

Step 5: Now stay with the sticky note in that level, move it left and right and ask the project team if it will take a lot of, medium or little effort to implement this topic. Find the ideal spot on the horizontal view and place the post-it note in the agreed position (vertical and horizontal position).

Step 6:  Take the next sticky note and repeat the process from steps 4 and 5 until all improvement ideas are placed in the matrix.

Step 7: Now you can summarize of all the ideas that have a:

  1. first priority = high impact and low effort,

  2. second priority = high impact and high effort,

  3. third priority = Low impact, low effort,

  4. fourth priority = Low impact, high effort.

 

 

When to use this tool?

 

This tool can be used in the:

  • Measure phase: to prioritize key problems in the process

  • Analyze phase: to prioritize top root cause in the process

  • Improve phase: to prioritize key solutions in the process

 

You can choose to use it in all 3 phases or only in the improve phase. From experience, this tool is most often applied in the improve phase, where we prepare to present the improvement suggestions to management.

3 Do´s and 3 Don’ts:

 

Do: Use this tool to prioritize ideas coming from all project team members.

Do: Draw the impact/effort matrix on a flip chart or brown paper in the workshop room.

Do: Make sure you get everyone’s feedback when finding the right place to place the sticky notes. Inform the group that everyone is asked to give their opinion in case a post-it note is not placed in the correct position.

 

Don’t: Forget that you can also use this tool in digital workshops.

Don´t: Forget to listen to reasons why some people disagree about the position of the sticky note. Perhaps these reasons will help the team agree to place the note in a different position.

Don´t: Tell the group where you think these sticky notes should be placed.

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Pilot

To test whether process changes work as expected

 

Why to use this tool?

 

To verify on a smaller scale that the changes to the process are working properly before finally deploying on a large-scale.

 

 

How to use this tool?

 

Step 1: Describe what the pilot phase will test.

Step 2: Explain why this will be tested.

Step 3. Illustrate where this pilot will be tested. Whether it is for a specific service or product, or a specific small group of clients. Ideally, you can inform the client group that testing is ongoing, in case they see any negative result they can give their feedback.

Step 4: Identify the persons in charge for testing.

Step 5: Set a start and end date for the pilot phase.

Step 6: Set the desired results from the pilot and compare them with the outcome of the pilot phase.

 

 

When to use this tool?

 

The pilot phase should be carried out in the improve phase before the final implementation of the improvements are standardized for all clients.

 

 

 

3 Do´s and 3 Don’ts:

Do: Take the time to perform the pilot for your critical processes. If anything goes wrong, it will take even longer to fix it.

Do: Get approval from the project sponsor before starting the pilot.

Do: Use the PDCA cycle in case the results of the pilot phase need improvement.

 

Don’t: Roll-out the pilot phase for all your customers at the same time.

Don´t: Test the pilot on the most critical clients.

Don´t: Go live with the new process before the pilot phase is complete and the results are proven successful. 

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Poka-Yoke

Mistake Proofing Concept

 

Why to use this tool?

 

To make sure that when improving our processes, we find bulletproof solutions and have a good distribution between solutions that will prevent the error from reoccurring, as well as solutions that will detect the error in case something goes wrong.

 

 

How to use this tool?

 

Step 1: Plan the Poka-Yoke tool at as the second last agenda point of your workshop.

Step 2: Brainstorm root causes and correlated solutions.

Step 3: Assign a number for each of the solutions. For example (X1, X2, X3, etc.).

Step 4: Using the Poka-Yoke template, place the Xs where your project team thinks they belong (for example under shutdown, control, or warning and then under prevention or detection).

Step 5: Make sure you have a good balance of ideas that went into “prevention” and “detection.”

Step 6: If needed, come up with new alternative ideas to obtain a better balance of ideas.

Step 7: When everything looks balanced, prepare the presentation for management, where you can present your suggestions for approval.

 

 

When to use this tool?

 

Poka-Yoke tool should be used in the improve phase, just before preparing the improvement proposals for management.

The best moment to review this technique is at the end of the workshop, once we have collected all improvement ideas. This way, we can test whether we have enough ideas that target “prevention” and some ideas that target “detection”.

 

 

3 Do´s and 3 Don’ts:

 

Do: Give priority to ideas that focus on the “prevention” side, but also have some under “detection”.

Do: Propose the ideas to management after completing the Poka-Yoke activity with your project team.

Do: Brainstorm further improvement ideas if you do not have a good balance between the “prevention” and “detection” columns. It is fine to have more under “prevention”.

 

Don’t: Forget that it is not so important if you cannot agree whether the idea is subject to shut down, control or warning. The key point is to have a good idea of how to eliminate the root case and decide if it is an improvement to prevent an error from happening or if it will only detect when an error occurs.  

Don´t: Worry about the number of ideas, focus more on the quality of the improvement ideas.

Don´t: Forget to keep in mind who gave which improvement suggestions. This will help you later identify the owners in the action plan :-)

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Prioritization of Solutions

To present the best suggestions to the sponsor

 

Why to use this tool?

 

To reduce time needed to prioritize improvement suggestions, just like with the tool called “Impact / Effort Matrix”

 

 

How to use this tool?

 

Step 1: Collect any ideas for improvement that arose during the brainstorming session.

Step 2: During the workshop with project team members, make sure that each improvement suggestion is on 1 post-it note.

Step 3: Make sure everyone knows the background of each of these improvement suggestions.

Step 4: Take one improvement suggestion (sticky note) and ask the group if the topic will have a high, medium or low impact when implemented. You can visually show the sticky note moving up and down along the vertical axis of the impact matrix chart. Depending on everyone’s feedback, find the ideal level.

Step 5: Now stay with the sticky note in that level, move it left and right and ask the project team if it will take a lot of, medium or little effort to implement this topic. Find the ideal spot on the horizontal view and place the post-it note in the agreed position (vertical and horizontal position).

Step 6:  Take the next sticky note and repeat the process from steps 4 and 5 until all improvement ideas are placed in the matrix.

Step 7: Now you can summarize all of the ideas that have a:

  1. first priority = high impact and low effort,

  2. second priority = high impact and high effort,

  3. third priority = Low impact, low effort,

  4. fourth priority = Low impact, high effort.

 

 

When to use this tool?

 

This tool can be used in the:

  • Measure phase: to prioritize key problems in the process

  • Analyze phase: to prioritize top root cause in the process

  • Improve phase: to prioritize key solutions in the process

 

You can choose to use it in all 3 phases or only in the improve phase. From experience, this tool is most often applied in the improve phase, where we prepare to present the improvement suggestions to management.

 

 

3 Do´s and 3 Don’ts:

 

Do: Use this tool to prioritize ideas coming from all project team members.

Do: Draw the impact/effort matrix on a flip chart or brown paper in the workshop room.

Do: Make sure you get everyone’s feedback when finding the right spot for the sticky notes. Inform the group that everyone is asked to give their opinion in case a post-it note is not placed in the correct position.

 

Don’t: Forget that you can also use this tool in digital workshops.

Don´t: Forget to listen to reasons why some people disagree about the position of the sticky note. Perhaps these reasons will help the team agree to place the note in a different position.

Don´t: Tell the group where you think these sticky notes should be placed.

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Proposed Improvements for Sponsor

Getting your ideas approved 

 

Why to use this tool?

 

The outcome of your workshops should be a list of ideas for what needs to be improved in the process. These ideas should be clearly structured so that they can be presented to the project sponsor for approval to implement the ideas into the process. This is where you receive “green light” to go ahead with the improvements.

 

 

How to use this tool?

 

Step 1: Collect all the ideas that came from your workshop and include all recommended solutions in the “proposed improvements” template.

Step 2: Link the failure mode to each of these proposed improvements. This will highlight the main topic of this idea which should be related to the fishbone diagram.

Step 3: Put the appropriate X that corresponds with the proposed improvement idea.

Step 4: Calculate what is the investment for implementing this idea.

Step 5: Calculate the annual financial return (soft and hard) when implementing these ideas.

Step 6: Prepare a column where management can select the approval status:

  • yes

  • no

  • need more information.

 

 

When to use this tool?

 

In the improve phase.

 

 

3 Do´s and 3 Don’ts:

 

Do: Invite the project sponsor to come to the end of the workshop (30-60 minutes before the workshop ends). This way the project team can present their ideas and in case more information is needed this can be clarified on site. If the idea is not approved, the manager has the possibility to explain the reason why.

Do: Keep it clear and simple. If your sponsor wants to delve into a specific area, you can provide more information on that topic.

Do: Allow the person who came up with the idea to present their proposal to management. Ideally, this should be the same person who will take ownership of this idea once the action is approved.

 

Don’t: Overload project sponsor with too much information during your presentation. In most cases, they just want to know the outcome and what are the decision points they should make.

Don´t: Forget to explain the calculation method for the columns named investment and annual return.

Don´t: Whenever an improvement idea is not accepted, do not forget to reduce the overall financial impact of the project.

It will be clear to management that any idea not approved will reduce the overall impact on the project. If so, the project sponsor may ask us to just implement the points that have been accepted and the sponsor accepts the reduced impact of the project. The sponsor might also ask the project team to continue to come up with more ideas so that the financial impact can be compensated.

 
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Skills Matrix

To optimize your cross-training

Why to use this tool?

 

To be able to accomplish:

  • Well-trained team

  • Flexible team that can take over some of the process tasks when needed

  • To better balance peak times

  • To be able to give employees a training and development plan

  • To be able to conduct a gap analysis and set goals for the team (either train others or to learn from others).

 

 

How to use this tool?

 

Step 1: During the workshop, list all the processes and tasks to be performed by the team and place them on the top (horizontal axis). See the template.

Step 2: On the left side of the chart (vertical axis), write down the names of the team members.

Step 3: Using icons, show which team members have which expertise for each process or task. These icons range between:

 

  • Expert / Trainer

 

  • Competent, regularly exercises the tasks

 

  • Knows how, but does not regularly practice the tasks

 

  • Knows the theory, but has not practiced

 

  • No knowledge

Step 4: This should be completed in consultation with each team member to verify that they agree with the selection.

Step 5: Determine the minimum skill experience for each team member.

Step 6: Ask your manager to map out the cross-training (the expert / trainer will show others how the process is efficiently executed).

Step 7: Define a rotation plan so that employees do not forget what they have learned.

 

 

When to use this tool?

 

This tool should be used in the improve phase.

 

 

3 Do´s and 3 Don’ts:

 

Do: Check whether your country and company have a works council. If so, you will need to verify with them whether you can display the skill matrix results on the team board or if they need to remain anonymous. If anonymous, the manager will need to communicate the cross-training plan to his employees in 1-1 meetings.

Do: Have the team leader and head of department explain the team why the skills matrix is going to help them and how it benefits everyone during peak times and absences.

Do: Create a backup plan. In case of absence of someone in the office, who will be their backup / replacement.

 

Don’t: Use the skills matrix to put pressure on team members. This tool should be used as a motivational strategy. In case an employee feels overwhelmed or does not want to learn more than what he/she is already doing today, it should be respected.

Don´t: Fill the skills matrix without an employee’s presence. At best, the employee assesses their own skills which then it gets approved or adjusted by the manager.

Don´t: Forget the rotation plan. Otherwise, employees will forget how the process works. When the day comes that they need to do the task, they will no longer remember how it is done. That is why it is so important to perform a rotation plan on a regular basis, especially as processes change over time.

To quickly locate the tool you are looking for, use the search bar in the top right corner of the page or directly click on the tool in each phase listed below.

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Solution Design Matrix

To compare different solutions

 

Why to use this tool?

 

In case you have many different models of the process, and you are not sure which to use for your improvements, you can enter information into a “Solution Design Matrix” and observe which model gets the highest score.

 

 

How to use this tool?

 

Step 1: Explore the different process models. For example, if you work for a multinational company and have the same process running in different countries, you can put each of them in separate columns in the matrix.

Sep 2: Compare the different process models with the current process you want to improve.

Step 3: Indicate if the criteria are better or worse than the current process you want to improve. This can be marked with (+) for better or (-) for worse than the current process.

Step 4: Enter a severity rating (where 1 = not important and 5 = very important) for each of the criteria.

Step 5: Calculate the sum of positives, the sum of negatives, the sum of same, the weighed sum of positives and negatives.

Step 6: Check which process model got the highest score and see if it can be deployed.

 

 

When to use this tool?

 

This tool should be used in the improve phase.

 

 

3 Do´s and 3 Don’ts:

 

Do: Use the solution design matrix only when necessary. Not every project requires such a matrix.

Do: Put an “S” for the same in the column named “Baseline”.

Do: Use as many process comparisons as needed. You do not need to stick to the three listed in the template.

 

Don’t: Forget to do a weighted calculation based on the numbers in the “Importance Rating” column.

Don´t: Forget to consider that the other processes that you are comparing with may take place in a different environment or country with different regulations.

Don´t: Forget that the assessment of each criteria/topic is based on the consensus of the subject matter experts. If there is data available that can provide some evidence, that is also appreciated.

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SOP

Standard Operating Procedures

 

Why to use this tool?

 

To make sure that everyone knows how the process runs. These are the instructions on how to work on the end-to-end process. It will also ensure that standards are documented and that everyone performs the process the same way.

 

 

How to use this tool?

 

Step 1: Create a process map level 1 and 2 with subject matter experts (SMEs).

Step 2: Do a quick GEMBA walk to verify that the process maps are accurate.

Step 3: Start writing the standard operating procedure with SMEs and link the steps in the process map level 2 to the sequence and number that appear in SOP.

Step 4: If needed go more into details by drilling down on the process map level 3 in specific areas.

 

 

When to use this tool?

 

In the improve phase, after all improvements have been made to the process and just before the SMEs obtain training in the new process. The SOP can be used as a supporting document for a training session.

 

 

3 Do´s and 3 Don’ts:

 

Do: Link the SOP with the process map. Add process map screenshots to the SOP documentation.

Do: Write the SOP in such a way that any new employee in the company can follow.

Do: Use images and screenshots. If SOPs are created in digital form, short videos captured from the computer screen can also be attached.

 

Don’t: Forget to use the new SOPs for training sessions with subject matter experts and all those involved in the end-to-end process.

Don´t: Forget to assign an SOP owner. This person will keep these documents, including process maps, up to date.

Don´t: Place the SOPs in a hard-to-find location. It should be in a central folder that anyone can access and easily find.

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Updated Documents

Highlight the vital points

 

Why to use this tool?

 

When the project manager finishes the project and if process performance starts to decline, SMEs will be able to revisit the project documentation to find out what the key factors influencing the process performance were and to see if these standards are still being followed.

 

 

How to use this tool?

 

Step 1: Copy and paste the process map, Fishbone and FMEA to finalize the improve phase documentation.

Step 2: Highlight the areas that turned out to be the vital Xs in Fishbone and FMEA.

Step 3: Show the effected areas on the old process map by marking them with an arrow or placing a circle around these areas.

Step 4: Introduce the new process map.

 

 

When to use this tool?

 

At the end of the improve phase, just before entering the control phase.

 

 

3 Do´s and 3 Don’ts:

 

Do: Compare the old process with the new process. This helps people recognize what they were doing before compared to what needs to be done today. Sometimes, employees revert to old habits. By highlighting areas that have changed, employees will know if they have reverted to the old process or not.

Do: Save project documentation in a location where employees have access to find it. Ideally, it should be close to the SOP documentation folder.

Do: Write a short explanation next to the updated and highlighted documentation. Documentation should always be created in such a way that a third party can understand it without consulting the project manager.

 

Don’t: Forget to inform SMEs that they can check the project documentation page number (…) in case they want to verify the key influencers (vital Xs) for process performance.

Don´t: Forget to include this in the employee training before closing the project.

Don´t: Forget to establish an escalation process when process performance starts to diminish.

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