by Chris Reed
We regularly get questions from potential customers asking our opinion on what makes a (good) process improvement project in preparation for them working on their improvement projects and developing their own capability through our Green Belt programme.
In many cases customers are confused because they have been given a project to ‘do’ and they are not sure if it qualifies as a Green Belt project; they often do not know the difference between a process improvement project and an implementation project, and how would they? If they work in an environment where they are traditionally given projects to ‘manage’ i.e. implement, then the temptation is to assume their Improvement project is the same.
A project that is focussed on working on a problem where the solution is not known, and identifying the root causes of the problem and then developing and testing solutions to address them before implementation, is alien to them.
When this same dilemma exists you need to decide if the project you are thinking about is suitable for an improvement project.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Is there a problem to fix but no obvious solution?
Are you currently at the stage where you know there is a problem, but you don’t yet know all the root causes?
Do you have some ideas on which process/es are causing the problem but you need to investigate further?
Do you have enough data to be confident about the current performance of the process/es, or do you need to gather data so that you can be sure on what is actually happening?
If any of these sound familiar you are being asked to lead a process improvement project suitable for a Green Belt study using a generic continuous process improvement as shown below:
If the work has already been done to understand the problem and identify solutions, and therefore your job is to implement the defined solution, you are starting at the part of project management element of implementing a known solution. There is nothing wrong with an implementation project – you just need more of a project management approach and less of an ‘investigation’.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but here are some tips to help steer you in the right direction.
Things to consider
1.The project should be ‘do-able’ over the period of about 3 months.
2.It should be neither too big nor trivial.
3.It should address an issue, which is important to your organisation.
4.You will need a ‘Sponsor’ to provide guidance and to assist in removing barriers and getting resources.
5.Customer concerns are usually priorities.
6.It must be something which you, with your Sponsor’s support, can obtain the authority to change.
7.It should require a small, carefully selected team (3-7 people) to investigate, work on and implement solutions – not merely recommend solutions.
8.It should not be a ‘fix the world’ problem which people have struggled over for years and got nowhere