This article is the follow-up to part 1 on Lean Management for Non-manufacturing Functions.
- Step 3. Develop your project charter:
Before moving to any project deployment, a project charter is necessary to provide financial and operational information for all stakeholders. So basically, the project charter can be considered as a communication tool where stakeholders can see and understand the “WHY” of the project selection. It’s also necessary for the process owner to get the resources required and management support for the project.
A project charter can include the project name, the process concerned, the champion, the resources required, the duration, the problem statement, operational impacts, financial and operational objectives (metrics), and duration.
Project metrics or KPIs are so fundamental for an improvement project to assure you attain operational and financial objectives. They can be extracted from a simple translation of business goals, or the voice of the customer (VOC), which are the customer requirements and specifications (whether internal or external customers).
- Step 4. Choose your methodology:
Once you select your next improvement project, it’s time to choose which methodology or approach you are going to follow to bring structure to the problem-solving process. Many approaches exist for Lean deployments such as PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, and Act), Kaizen events (or rapid improvement), and DMAIC, which stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. Depending on your project and its requirements, you will select the right approach for it.
The approach selection process is out of the scope of this article. But one thing to keep in mind here is that the process of implementing a lean project in a service environment can be extremely flexible. I mean, there is no specific rule to follow to guarantee success. Sometimes the approaches mentioned above can be complementary. For instance, PDCA can be followed in the “improve” phase of DMAIC.
- Step 5. Assess the current state:
After finishing the observation period where the team tries to deepen its understanding of the process, assessing and measuring the current state can be done by using different Lean tools depending on the project metrics fixed in the “Define” phase. Tools like value stream mapping (VSM), spaghetti diagram, 5S audit, surveys, Gemba Walks, interviews, workshops, etc. Applying these tools and others in the right way can reveal many problems, wastes, non-value-adding activities, and changes that can have the greatest impact on performance.
Activities value assessment can be tricky in a service line or process. The process is loosely structured, and the people working in the process often suppose they only do value-adding or necessary value-adding activities. The trick here is to challenge all activities by asking this question: “Is the customer willing to pay for this activity?”. If the answer is no, then there is no need to keep doing it.
The assessment results should be communicated to people concerned with the process to get inputs, remarks, validation, and other thoughts that might be valuable. Remember, They are the ones who will be the most impacted by the change, and so it will make the work so much easier for you if you explain to them why you are measuring, what you are measuring, and what they think about it.
During this measuring phase, many problems with evident, simple, reversible, and economic solutions may be detected where no further analysis is needed. These solutions are called “Quick Wins”. You can just implement them right away. They play a key role in keeping the team motivated in long-term projects.
- Step 6. Analyze results:
The assessment work should help you identify some symptoms. But you still need to dig deeper when analyzing and looking for the root causes of the problems. The best way to identify potential root causes is to have a brainstorming session where team members fill the “Fishbone Diagram” and answer “5 Whys” questions.
- Step 7. Brainstorm, design, test, and implement solutions:
In brainstorming sessions, think about solutions that can be corrective or preventive to the causes identified. Prioritize them and start designing the selected ones. The testing here can be the toughest part since it takes time to implement the prototype, measure its impact, and collect users feedback. The successful solutions end up being implemented, but before that, a crucial step must be respected:
- Step 8. Planning for change management:
Many process improvement projects fail simply because there was not enough attention paid to change management as a core project responsibility, especially in a service process. All parties that will be impacted should be briefed up front, in what may be called, a ‘kick-off meeting. This needs to be early in the process and provide all the parties an opportunity to understand “Why” this change is needed.
The presenting team should propose change management plans for important ideas for improvement to reduce resistance to change. They can include a description of the problem, the change objective, the impact on the people and the process, etc. These plans may also serve as part of a training tool on the new “STANDARD”.
- Step 9. Document the new standard:
If you develop solutions and don’t standardize the process, then you are planning to fail. Now that the ideas for improvement are all described and designed, it is time to stabilize the studied process by creating a working standard.
This standard must be the best way, found up to this point, to effectively perform the process, without wasting resources and without wasting time. It will define the correct sequence of activities and all the elements necessary to perform the process consistently over time. This standard will also make it possible to identify when non-standard conditions will occur, and therefore make the necessary adjustments.
- Step 10 (Final Step). Control the process:
How can you know if the implemented solutions are meeting your expectations or if they need any adjustment or improvement? How can you know if the operational and financial gap between the first and the future state is being closed and that the achieved performance will be sustained? The answer to these questions is by controlling your process and your metrics. The best way to do this in a service environment is through a “Daily Management System”.
Now that the project is done, you have the right to celebrate with your team. However, Lean thinking always seeks perfection, and so the project you’ve just finished is not the end – but rather the beginning of the hard work of continuous improvement. Momentum being created, it’s time to create a Lean culture. It is a long, multi-dimensional journey that requires the proper execution of change, the commitment of leadership, and an infrastructure that provides ongoing support for improvement efforts.
Lean is a long-term business strategy, and like any strategy, It Takes Time!