All processes need a control or management mechanism to ensure that they meet or exceed customer expectations consistently.  Process parameters that go out of control need to be restored back to their normal values. How fast this has to be done depends on the type of process. For a surgeon, he needs to restore parameters back to normal within seconds. Engineers working in processing plants like paint shops need to react within minutes. However, for some processes, a couple of hours or a couple of days would be good enough.

A process control or management plan, usually prepared in the control phase of a Six Sigma project, provides insights on a reaction or response plan.

A reaction plan or response plan specifies a course of action that is needed to be taken when process control parameters go out of control. And, it includes both immediate and long-term actions to restore a process performance to its desired level.

There are 5 different types of reaction plans that can be considered while creating a process control plan:

  1. A plan to continue the process with close monitoring: – A process needs to be closely observed to see where it is going wrong, what is causing the parameters to go out of control, and how often is it occurring; for example: the source of the noise level of a generator or machine. Therefore, at this point, continue to run the process but closely monitor it as well. It is indeed, a very low impact reaction plan, but this is good enough for many processes.
  2. Enforce a manual override: – If a system is running automatically, stop and run it manually in order to exert a little more caution. This not only helps observe which part of the process is failing, it also helps to get a better handling of the process.
  3. Follow special instructions: – The next thing to do, when out of control parameters have been identified, is to follow instructions that are kept in place; for example: in case of a fire, check the instructions to find the exits, etc. Therefore if instructions are followed, then it will help bring the process back on track.
  4. Stop and escalate: – If a process goes wrong, and none of the above actions work, only then we should stop a process and escalate it to the experts or concerned department.
  5. Stop, correct, and resume: – This action can be observed if a process goes wrong and none of the above actions work, and if there is an expert among us who can fix the issue. Then, we can stop the process, correct the process and continue the process; while observing if the process has been restored to its desired level of performance. This reaction plan will have a quick and immediate impact. For some critical processes, this reaction plan is very apt.

The concept of a reaction plan or response plan is not only applicable in control phase, but also for standalone situations. Be sure to follow the 5 steps or types of procedures that need to be observed in the event of a process going out of control.