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A FEW BASICS FOR EVALUATING YOUR PROCESS IMPROVEMENT AND QUALITY MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

by for Leadership, Process Improvement, Quality, Safety

Leadership: Are executives and managers trained in quality and process improvement (Baldrige, Six Sigma, Lean Management and/or Manufacturing, others)?

  • Leaders who are not trained in these areas are not committed to quality and continuous improvement, nor can they create an organization that can effectively implement such systems. This is reflected in the quality of the product or service.

Process Reviews and Documentation: Are there periodic reviews of processes, including business and manufacturing processes? Are these processes properly documented? Is the documentation maintained and updated as needed?

  • Periodic reviews and well-maintained documentation suggest a degree of awareness of needed changes.

Data Management: How is process data handled in terms of collection, analysis, and maintenance, and storage?

  • Data management is the lifeblood of any manufacturing process irrespective of the product type. The same can be said of business processes with relatively high volumes, such as invoicing or call center activities. Access to data will drive the ability to measure and improve process performance. Inadequate collection, analysis, maintenance, or storage of data suggests inattentiveness to quality.

Visibility of Process and Quality Culture: Is there visible evidence of the implementation of process and quality principles?

  • Work areas, particularly in manufacturing, should display visible signs of basic process and quality discipline. Examples include work procedures documented at each workstation and implementation of 5S (Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, Sustain).
  • The absence of such things is a visible sign that the organization lags the industry in basic quality procedures.

Individual Training and Certifications: Have employees been trained in critical quality disciplines?

  • Training and certification in quality disciplines such as Six Sigma and Lean empowers and equips employees. This training is critical for continuous improvement.
  • Such skills are essential to supporting quality and customer satisfaction, and ultimately, shareholder value.

Organizational Certifications: Has the organization earned (and does it maintain) general quality and industry-specific certifications such as ISO 9001 and others?

  • ISO 9001 is a well-known and foundational standard. Documentation should demonstrate the organization’s aptitude for and commitment to the tenets of ISO 9001.
  • Other industry standards may also be in order, such as AS9000, the Aerospace Basic Quality System Standard used by defense and aerospace companies.

Occupational Safety: Does the organization have a history of compliance with OSHA and other standards?

  • Past infractions and/or fines will suggest a degree of risk depending on the severity of the problems. The extent of the financial risk could be mitigated in the eyes of customers by demonstrating that plans are in place to prevent further incidents. This would include training, reviews, inspections, and adequate data to indicate that improvements have taken hold.
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Viewing Safety as an Aspect of Quality

by for Process Improvement, Project Management, Quality, Safety

This week the Bureau of Labor Statistics released some interesting findings for 2009. An Associated Press article reported that the Bureau documented a 17 percent drop in workplace fatalities last year. The article notes that much of the decline can be attributed to a reduction in hours worked as a result of the recession.

This is good news when taken at face value. However, occupational health and safety practitioners know that the number of fatalities can start to climb as the recession subsides and more people join the ranks of the employed. Now is the time to consider new strategies for elevating safety as a primary workplace concern in the competitive business environment. One means of accomplishing this is to provide an entirely different frame of reference for the safety debate.

Safety is, very simply put, a quality concern. An incident is really a defect produced by a failure in a process or work flow. Process and layout designs should reduce the risk of such incidents just as they should reduce the risk of defects. Safety advocates can gain support in their organizations by using this context to discuss workplace concerns.

Lean and Six Sigma techniques can be used to assess and mitigate the risk of injuries and other incidents. These methods are used together to facilitate the improvement of a wide variety of processes. Examples include manufacturing and assembly, medical services, financial transactions, and environmental testing. Other disciplines such as project management can be used in concert with Lean and Six Sigma to ensure the success of improvement efforts.

Lean techniques are used to: (1) identify the portions of a process that create waste, and (2) facilitate the process redesign. The first step is to map the process to understand how it works and to highlight problem areas. In the safety arena, this translates into looking at the process flow and the physical layout to determine where hazardous conditions exist.

Six Sigma encompasses a variety of tools that are used to reduce process errors and quality defects. Six Sigma can also be used to gather and analyze data on safety incidents and dangerous occurrences to evaluate possible causes and improvements. The approach consists of a series of steps known as DMAIIC: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Implement, and Control. These steps address each phase of a process improvement effort, and all are required to evaluate potential sources of errors, defects, or hazards. From there, improvements are recommended, implemented, and evaluated. The tools used in Six Sigma include Statistical Process Control (SPC), design of experiments, and individual statistical analysis tools, to name a few.

Using Lean and Six Sigma to assess hazards and safety incidents provides an opportunity to evaluate these issues in a broader context. Treating incidents as a type of defect or process failure allows workers and managers to see the business impact of safety as well as the personal impact. This analytical, performance-based methodology provides an excellent framework for the due diligence needed to make safety improvements and enhance the overall health of the work environment.

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Outsourcing Institute Webinar Recording Now Available

by for Outsourcing, Process Improvement

“Outsourcing Vendor Selection” is now available at the following link – select the 8/12/2010 webinar:

http://www.outsourcingintelligencenetwork.com/oi_prod/index.php?option=com_oievents&type=2

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Want to Transform Your Organization? Look at the Work.

by for Global Business, Leadership, Process Improvement, Project Management

A friend of mine recently initiated a transformation in his physical health. One day he learned that his cholesterol was dangerously high. He realized he had a choice to make. He could take incremental steps and hope for a prolonged period of improvement, or he could make radical changes and improve his condition very quickly. He took charge of the situation. He changed his eating and exercise habits so dramatically that his cholesterol level dropped by 20 points in less than a month.

This story is analogous to the challenges that corporations face daily across the global marketplace. Some have stepped up to the plate and made the radical changes needed to become financially healthy and maintain their viability in the market place. They decided that they wanted to live and not die.

Historically, individual budgetary concerns and department performance have weighed too heavily on work processes in many corporations. This behavior helps organizations optimize at a functional group level, but sub-optimization is the result for the overall entity. If a company is to avoid the iceberg of corporate mortality, then everybody had better start moving the ship – and they better be moving in the same direction. Serving customers and succeeding as an enterprise must drive decisions and, consequently, work flows.

Does your organization reflect the sub-optimization reality? Don’t feel badly – you’re in good company. Where should you start so you can experience your own transformation?  Glad you asked. Keep these two things in mind:

1. Prioritize Carefully

Project portfolio management and prioritization are imperative. No organization can do everything that comes across the radar screen. Your team needs to be allowed to focus on the “critical few” items in order to accomplish its strategic goals. The list of the critical few should be populated with projects that address customer-driven products and services, quality, safety, and compliance. This list should also be limited in scope. Furthermore, items on the list should be important enough to be fully resourced.

2. Eliminate or Reduce Non-Value Added Work

Non-value added work can consume a disproportionate amount of time each day. Tasks that fall into this category typically are driven by departmental requirements, not by the needs of your customers. Figure out how much time your organization spends on activities that serve your customers versus those that only serve the bureaucracy. Empower your organization, and charge them with eliminating or at least reducing the latter.

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How to Select Innovative Supplier Partners

by for Outsourcing, Process Improvement, Project Management

Organizations are using supply chain management as a means of creating value and managing cost. Companies are using their supplier partnerships to drive innovation and are pushing greater responsibility upstream to their partners. Consequently, performance expectations are increasing and supplier selection activities must yield stellar results.  An organization can transform its supply chain by selecting real value partners who support the strategic direction of the enterprise.

The right sourcing tools can play a critical role in identifying and building value-based relationships. My article “How to Select Innovative Supplier Partners Using a 5-Step Project Management Approach” offers a step-by-step approach for ensuring success in your sourcing efforts. In addition, check out the “How to Select Innovative Supplier Partners” presentation for detailed tips as well as helpful templates.

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Outsourcing Webinar Coming Up August 12!

by for Global Business, Outsourcing, Process Improvement, Project Management

Outsourcing Vendor Selection: Get Schooled on How Not to Get Schooled

Sponsored by the Outsourcing Institute

Date: August 12, 2010
Time: 12:00pm – 1:00pm EDT
Registration: Click Here to Register for the Webinar

Cost: Free

Choosing your outsourcing vendor can be risky business. If you are unfamiliar with proven methods and criteria for selecting your vendor, valuable time and money can be wasted.

Join us on Thursday, August 12, from noon-1pm EDT so you aren’t learning the ins and outs of vendor selection from…the school of hard knocks.

This webinar will focus on the importance of a robust vendor selection process and cover key aspects of vendor selection methodology. Expect to learn the following take-aways:

  • Developing a vendor strategy aligned with your business strategy
  • Understanding the vendor market landscape
  • Developing vendor evaluation criteria
  • Maintaining objectivity
  • Managing risk
  • Avoiding pitfalls in contracting and negotiations

Join Kevin Parikh, CEO of Avasant, as he explores these and other topics while fielding your questions on all things vendor selection along with an expert panel. Panelists include Monica D. Johns, MBA, PMP, President and CEO of Clarity Management Consulting.

Registration:  Click Here to Register for the Webinar

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J&J Recall: A Lapse In Vigilance In a Process-driven Culture

by for Process Improvement, Quality

Johnson & Johnson consumers complained about berry-flavored Pepcid being mingled with mint-flavored tablets. These complaints should have been the early warning system that would have uncovered failures and trends in managing/controlling the manufacturing process.

This means that process discipline broke down in at least two areas that haven’t been the focal point of our attention:

(1) The method for handling complaints failed. If handled properly, customer complaints could have served as a gold mine for data on where things were going wrong.

(2) The manufacturing system failed. Processes were either broken, not followed, or not maintained.

In both cases, processes are the key. J&J will need to reevaluate its culture to understand how it evolved to the point of allowing vigilance in process management to fall off. This is reminiscent of the theme that surfaced in the Toyota recalls.

A key lesson from the Toyota and J&J stories is this: companies have to manage the basics. Neglecting them is not an option. The cultural attributes that enabled success must be maintained and nurtured. Both of these companies have a reputation for keeping an eye on their processes. They know that processes do not manage themselves. It will take a lot of digging to find the root of the underlying cultural shift that created these issues.

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Identifying Waste and Standing out as a Project Manager

by for Process Improvement, Project Management, Quality

I recently saw some interesting questions on LinkedIn. I captured two of these questions in today’s blog post.

Question 1: “How does management create an environment where people are inspired and motivated to identify waste and continuously make process improvements?”

In my view, leaders have to demonstrate that they are willing to make process improvement and waste reduction principles operational. This is done in several ways. Here are two examples: (1) Organizations have to be structured and measured in such a way that allows waste to be uncovered and dealt with. This means breaking down walls or silos as they are called in some companies. (2) The CEO must lead by example and reward the right behavior. In addition, they must make sure their staffs do likewise.

Item (2) could and should mean changing the way variable compensation is handled. I am of the opinion that everyone should have a portion of her or his compensation driven by quality in the field and customer satisfaction. Both of these metrics benefit from an organization’s ability to eliminate waste and improve processes. Good marks in these areas drive sales, especially repeat purchases. When companies perform poorly in these areas, they are really failing to serve the customer, which means they are not living up to their mission.

Question 2: What do you do to “stand out” as a project manager?

I think of this from the standpoint of the customer’s need. When I hire a consultant to do some marketing or editing tasks, I do it to relieve some of my pain, namely, the pain of time constraints. I choose service providers because I know that I am going to be better off with them than without them. I also believe that I will be delighted with the end result, particularly the quality of the service or product.

Why should I assume that my clients would feel any differently?

The client believes they are going to be better off by having me on the team. My work should help them get out of pain into relief, then into being satisfied with my work, then into being delighted with the end result.

The key driver in this is that customers hire me to relieve their pain. From a project management standpoint, this means demonstrating that (1) I am progressing, (2) things are under control, and (3) they are going to achieve their goals. That’s why I’m there.

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