From Davis Balestracci -- A Four-Step Process that can Change Your Career

Published: Mon, 08/05/13

From Davis Balestracci --  A Four-Step Process that Can Change Your Career

[~ 900 words:  Take 4-6 minutes to read over a break or lunch]

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From "Bolt-on" to "Built-in" -- From "Projects" to "Holistic Improvement"

Hi, Folks,

TQM, Six Sigma, Lean, Lean Six Sigma, Toyota Production System -- wrong focus!  It's time to move the focus from "method" to "improvement."   All of the above are based in the same theory and rely on process thinking, teamwork, disciplined data collection and a solid problem-solving methodology.  My respected statistical colleague Ron Snee expands this to a broader perspective called:

Holistic improvement:  a system that can successfully create and sustain significant improvements of any type, in any culture for any business:
  • Works in all areas of the business -- all functions and all processes.
  • Works in all organizational sub-cultures, providing a common language and tool set.
  • Embodies all measures of performance (quality, cost, delivery and customer satisfaction).
  • Addresses all aspects of process management (process design/redesign, improvement and control).
  • Encompasses all types of improvement (streamlining, waste and cycle time reduction, quality improvement and process robustness).
  • Includes management systems for improvement (plans, goals, budgets and management reviews).
  • Focuses on developing an improvement culture (uses improvement as a leadership development tool).
Lessons Still Not Learned
Snee still finds the following common mistakes that continue to be made despite what has been learned the last 30 years:
  • Failing to design improvement approaches that require the active involvement of top management
  • Focusing on training rather than improvement
  • Failing to use top talent to conduct improvement initiatives
  • Failing to build the supporting infrastructure, including personnel skilled in improvement and management systems to guide improvement
  • Failing to work on the right projects -- those that deliver significant bottom-line results
  • Failing to plan for sustaining the improvements at the beginning of the initiative.
Isn't it time for improvement professionals to stop bemoaning these issues and do something about them?  If you don't, who will?  No one is better poised - you are indeed the "top talent"!  But you must also develop the "talents" to broaden your job responsibilities to deal with the other five mistakes above.

25 years ago, I picked up one of the best capsules of advice I've ever received at a conference.  To become effective at improvement one must:
  • Have the will to do whatever it takes
  • Have the belief that your organization is capable
  • Have the wherewithal to relentlessly learn
  • Stop talking about it -- and DO it.

A Suggested Roadmap

[Note the conspicuous absence of mass cultural training.  That comes much, much later.]

1. "Connecting the dots":  Can you forge a partnership with your management using some form of a balanced scorecard to translate data into intelligent action at the appropriate level?
  • Can you convince your management to see "improvement" as the balanced scorecard "Learning and Growth" strategy that will help the organization execute its actual strategy?
  • And can you quietly solve a significant longstanding organizational issue to make your case?
  • Are there ONLY 3 to 5 (no more) strategic initiatives to establish a focus and context -- one of which is this roadmap?
  • Are the needed results of these initiatives CLEAR, connected, and cascaded to serve as a rudder to motivate:  (1) an entrenched culture away from doing what it has always routinely done and (2) a results-based management coaching context with which to manage culture?
What you can DO:

Use everyday data and meetings to establish the context above, then help management learn and apply in everyday work:
  • Process thinking
  • Problem-solving tools
  • Statistical thinking & "plotting the dots"
If management is resistant (high probability), can you then apply the above to solve a significant ongoing organizational problem?  Can you eliminate some routine "silly meetings" mired in data INsanity through effective use of statistical thinking to solve everyday problems?

2. Building a "critical mass":  Getting 25-30% of management to demonstrate commitment to quality, i.e., visibly changed behavior.
  • Are people who are promoted demonstrating commitment to quality and the ability to generate their own run/control charts on important numbers, then intelligently present and discuss them?
  • Are there fewer meetings "accounting for" performances compared to arbitrary numerical goals?
  • Is there a cultural "process" focus developing ZERO tolerance for "blame" and "victim" behavior?
At this point:
  • (Only) 20-30% of organization needs to be educated in quality philosophy
  • (Only) 10-20% of organization needs to be trained in basic tools for quality improvement
  • (Only) 1-2% of organization needs to be trained in advanced tools
One "result" that tells you you're on the right track:  in everyday conversations, you begin to hear front-line stirrings of, "You know, something feels different around here."

"Process variation affects process flow, product quality and the ability to sustain process performance.  Reducing variation must be part of the approach.  The bottom line is that improvement can be a very profitable business, with enhanced process performance and customer satisfaction resulting in improved financial results." -- Ron Snee

Do you have the will and belief to consider this?  And then the wherewithal to learn exactly what to do differently?  And the confidence and courage to actually change your current focus and do it?  

Improvement methods may come and go, but the need to improve business performance and the bottom line never goes out of style.  Being dogmatic about a single method does not work for all problems.  Even innovation and growth will eventually create waste and inefficiencies.  There will always be a need for improvement "top talent."

Until next time...

Kind regards,

P.S.  Let me help you set up your culture for success

  • Perhaps a plenary speaking engagement at one of your professional conferences or internal quality conferences to create will and belief in a critical mass of like-minded colleagues
  • A "data sanity" seminar to expose the invisible everyday opportunities that will help you gain the respect you deserve when you do it
  • Show the power of "plotting a dot" to help you do something to eradicate data INsanity

Or just about any other reason!  I love corresponding with my readers and answering their questions.

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