As process based performance improvement professionals, we have come to terms with the fact that there is a long standing epidemic among organizations world-wide. Almost all of the organizations that have attempted to reduce costs and improve quality, and failed are suffering from Not Invented Here Syndrome (NIHS), or even worse That Won’t Work Here Disease (aka, We’re Different/Special). Identifying the symptoms is easy for an outsider however; the difficulty is accepting that you yourself may have been infected.
The beautiful thing about Performance Based Process Improvement is that everything we do in life is a process, from getting out of bed in the morning to launching the space shuttle. There are steps that must be done in order to accomplish what ever goal it is that you are trying to achieve. Once you have reached the state of enlightenment where you can admit that you need to do something to make your organization more cost efficient and/or reach a higher level of quality, you have overcome the first hurdle. The difficult part is throwing organizational culture to the wind and starting to ask the really tough questions.
Over the last several postings we discussed going to your process, asking the right questions and preparing to map your process. Now it is time to start asking the question “do we really need to be doing this (work/policy/regulation/etc.)?” First with your process as a whole, and then with each step as you map your process. With many processes or sub-processes you are probably going to find out that the only reason you are doing it is because it is what you have always done. Even with the advent of technology, many organizations are following the same steps as they always have and aren’t taking advantage of all of the capabilities that reside within their organization. So, for each process, sub-process and process step (or policy/regulation/etc.), conduct a 5 “Why” exercise. Ask yourself why we are doing this five times, or more if necessary, to get to a concrete answer as to why you need to perform the activity. If you arrive at an answer that doesn’t make sense or even “because this is how we’ve always done it”, you have probably found a great place to improve or remove a process, sub-process, or process step. You may even find a policy or regulation which perhaps made sense at one time, but is no longer appropriate.
Assuming that you are following this Blog like a how-to manual, it is time to start mapping your process. Be sure to first ask “do we need the process/policy or regulation at all” and then move on from there. Take your time and do not accept answers to your 5 Whys which do not achieve your goal of reducing cost or increasing quality (rare exceptions like laws and direct orders excluded, although they may be able to be changed down the road). Use all that you have garnered from your Gemba Walk and remember to listen.
Good luck and Happy Leaning,