While leaders strive to build a culture of continuous improvement (CI) in their organizations, it is equally important to understand that business-as-usual activities take precedence over improvement activities. CI programs commence with a big bang and a lot of enthusiasm, but time wears out even the strongest and what it leaves behind is mere CI hubbub. This is not a simple problem to solve. If you have been part of any enterprise-wide CI deployment, you will have no difficulty relating to this. This problem is complex and has several failure modes.
In this article, I’ll like to highlight a common but significant failure mode – Selection of projects. It’s needless to emphasize that projects play a big role in any CI journey, but to its disgrace, projects are also a significant contributor to the downfall of CI program.
Going overboard and having too many concurrent projects is one way to fail. Not selecting the right projects to pursue is another. Here are few compelling reasons to consider project selection as an important activity rather than opening the floodgates of projects:
Business Priority: Every business has its own priorities and so it’s important to select the right projects that are aligned with your priorities. Having many dispersed projects will blemish, if not nullify the impact of projects. Alignment between leader’s priority & CI program can be easily accomplished if you select projects right at the beginning.
Change due to competition: If your competition is disrupting the industry, well you better select where you need to improve. External environment often forces organizations ruthlessly reform their way of thinking and working. And today, we all live in a world that is fast changing. So unless your right projects are selected and pursued, your CI program will become redundant soon.
High Customer Expectations: Everyone I talk to says, customers are demanding more than ever before. Understanding the changing their needs and aligning the CI program to customers is vital to the success of any organization’s CI program. Organizations sometimes pursue trivial opportunities such as cost saves but miss on acting on big ticket customer facing projects or customer pain points. Of course, while dealing with customers, things are going to be volatile, but that’s not a reason to avoid them. The good project selection process should filter such project opportunities.
Limited Budgets: All organizations must work within the framework of budgets. Improvements need monetary resources to support the change. Sometimes they are direct and hence easily associated to direct cost centers. But projects with intangible benefits or the ones incurring indirect costs usually end up as scapegoats. If an organization commits to project selection, many such failures can be prevented.
Availability of Resources: Human capital is scarce. CI projects need quality time and mindshare from people of importance in the organization. Quite often resource requirements are never considered during the commencement of projects. Even if considered, it’s only the project leader’s time. As CI projects are a cross-functional effort, active participation of experts from all involved functions defines the success of the project. In order to ensure we get the best out of our teams, we need to time our success. Thus project selection is a time sensitive activity.
Optimizing Number of Projects: Not all the areas of your organization need improvement at the same time, And improvement culture building is a slow and steady process which can never be implemented overnight, nor will the results reap overnight. So getting to rush out the organizational adrenaline may not be a success recipe for good CI program. Selection of projects will ensure that you sustain optimum enthusiasm in the system for CI.
So it is very evident that selection of projects impacts the CI culture, employee satisfaction, alignment to customers and ROI to business for the investments it makes in CI in a positive way. In the future articles, we’ll take this one step further and talk about the criteria used for selecting projects.
Have you ever confronted a situation doing hard work the whole day and at the end you realize that most of the time had been given by you and your team to the Non Value Added things!
One of the important aspects of the leadership in today’s competitive world is Prioritization. It helps to save time and money as you will be able to focus on what is important at the expense of lower value activities. Prioritizing skills are your ability to see what tasks are more important at each moment and give those tasks more of your attention, energy, and time.
We all have so much on hand to do and really speaking so much time to finish the things up. But we lack the skill to manage our work with the time. We mostly forget to take up the important things first and less significant work later. Instead, we do completely opposite to this. This is human nature as we all do the same thing in our day to day lives.
This issue is pertinent not only at an individual level, but even at organizational level. Organizations focus on the wrong reasons or causes and waste a lot of effort to solve a problem or improve their business.
How to improve upon it?
Lean Six Sigma teaches a very useful technique of prioritization to overcome this problem which is a mother of our all the other problems.
Pareto Analysis is based on 80/20 rule which says that our 20% efforts (out of the whole 100%) will give 80% of the benefits. This can be interpreted in many different ways like, for sales people 80% of the orders will come from the 20% of the customers, for team managers 20% people of the whole team shall give 80% of the work or results. Here, we should keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that the rest 20% is not important at all but can be said as less significant.
To generalize, 80% of the problem is caused by 20% of the reasons!
Thus using the Pareto principle, we can derive maximum impact with minimum effort and within short time span, if we focus on the right factors. Simple it is, right?
Before understanding the benefits of Pareto Analysis there are certain facts to be known about it. They are as under:
With an example given as under you will be able to understand why to focus on significant few:
Our Online Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification course teaches you step by step procedure to construct a pareto chart, different pareto variants and how to interpret them. More importantly it covers when and when not to apply pareto principle.
Benefits of Pareto Analysis:
As we all know that there are different levels of certification in Lean Six Sigma and these levels have been associated with “Belt” titles. It’s a very obvious question that why the levels here have been associated with the titles used in Martial Arts? That is because of the association of discipline and rigor in Lean Six Sigma similar to the martial arts.
You would find four commonly used belt titles in Six Sigma Certification and they are Yellow Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt and Master Black Belt. However, the most basic level in Lean Six Sigma is sometimes called as “White Belt”. A White Belt understands the theoretical aspects but virtually no application knowledge of the Lean Six Sigma concept. One could say this is an entry level awareness program. Let us understand one by one, the four belts mentioned above.
If you want to start your journey in Lean Six Sigma, its best you start by understanding some of the basics of Lean Six Sigma. Our Lean Six Sigma Primer Course is Free and it gives a great deal of information on Six Sigma. From there on you could more to Yellow Belt and Green Belt. This approach is pragmatic because it optimizes your investment of resources, time and effort.