31 Aug How To Ensure successful project implementation?
Things have been crazy these last few months! But have you noticed recently there is a lot of talk about transformation and business improvement?
Managers are being put under more and more pressure to deliver large scale process improvement projects as companies focus on turning around and rebuilding following the COVID-19 outbreak.
So, how do business’ ensure that their process improvement projects are successful when 70 % of them fail to sustain the results, even when the organisation has an impressive Operations Excellence model and a proficient team with the right attitude.
What generally goes wrong when it comes to sustaining the improved process, just after few months of its sign off?
Let’s discuss six reasons, why improvement projects fail to sustain the results and how organisations can overcome it.
1. Fail to involve right Stakeholders
Many companies perform their process improvement projects as a niche activity. A senior manager acts as Team Leader and the favoured ones as team members. They work hard during the project and brainstorm some fantastic solutions. Once the solutions are tested to generate positive results and the new process is developed, it is then communicated to the employees working on the process. Here, where the problem starts. These employees are comfortable working on their ‘As-Is’ process are surprised by official communication that now they have to work differently on the same process with the new resources. They accept the change, but that remains temporary. They will perform the task as per the new process whilst everybody is watching. As soon as the focus of the project team changes, they roll back to the earlier comfortable way of working.
Stakeholder analysis at the beginning of the project and developing a communication schedule according to it, is one of the best ways to engage stakeholders. It is always wise to include a representative from each process under the focus of improvement as a project core team member. The communication related to the progress of the project shall be transparent so that the employees involved in the process are aware that the initiative would be having an impact on their processes. While implementing solutions, have logical reasoning about why the changes are required in the process. Engaging each process owner will help to develop the culture of inclusion and they will understand that the solutions are not enforced, but generated either by them or for them.
2. Fails to establish accurate primary measurement and Tracking mechanism
At the beginning of the project, the enthusiastic process improvement team, eager to solve the problem applies all their technical skills on using accurate Lean Six Sigma tools. However, they fail to institutionalize the basics, i.e. the accurate primary measurement or KPI of the process under scrutiny and method to capture this information.
It is the project team leader’s responsibility to have a complete understanding of the KPI of the process under study. The project team shall agree on ‘How’ and ‘When’ the primary measurement will be measured. It shall be well documented in the project charter at the beginning of the project. The team leader shall also appoint a member from the team to capture the information and communicate it regularly to all stakeholders. Once the project is successfully completed, the team leader shall ensure that the project’s primary measurement is part of the organization’s regular performance report. An alarm mechanism shall also be introduced, which will trigger as soon the performance parameters changes beyond the control limits.
3. Fails to identify the impact of the solutions on process
During brainstorming sessions, many ideas are being generated and all of them would be having great potential to improve the processes. Since the project is having a defined deadline, the team generally plan to implement all the solutions at the same time. That causes ambiguity since it would be difficult to identify which solution implementation has generated what level of improvement. in case, if the primary measurement shows a temporary decline due to any reason, the team finds it hard to put the finger of a solution that is not working well in the new process.
Thus, it is recommended to identify the impact of each solution with the level of percentage improvement. Schedule the implementation of the solution in a way that the team knows the impact of each solution on the process parameter. The waterfall diagram is an effective chart to display how the solution is influencing the process. In case, if there is a decline of the primary measurement, the team leader or process owner can always refer back to the waterfall chart to review the declining factor.
4. Fails to establish Poka-yoke ( Mistake proofing)
The Project team fails to introduce a Poka-Yoke (Mistake Proofing) after the implementation of the solution. Those involved in the process, who are resistant to the proposed process changes, may take the opportunity of missing Poka-Yoke to slip back to their earlier way of working on a process.
Thus, as soon as the solutions are being implemented, the process improvement team should brainstorm the ways to ‘Mistake-proof’ the process. It can be the sequencing of the process just like an ATM or as simple as color-coding. Installing an alarm or notification system is another way that can help to highlight if there is a diversion from the new process measures. Establishing an audit mechanism is an excellent way of keeping track to ensure that the process is performing according to the new way.
5. Not including the process changes in the SOP and Training material
Companies implement and start working the new process without making it official by including it as a part of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and training material. In the absence of the new way of working in the official SOP, those involved in the process would take it as an excuse to not follow the new improved process.
Thus, once the solutions are identified as an effective way to bring the change in the process, it is imperative to make it official by including it in the company’s Standard Operating Procedure. At the same time, the training material shall be built around the new process and the schedule shall be set to ensure that each individual is trained with the new way of working.
6. Diminished interest of TOP management
Process Improvement drive shall always run under the leadership of Senior Management. During the execution of the project, the top management has great attention to the progress of the project because of the number of actions involved. Furthermore, they also know that the implementation of the solution is a compelling source of potential financial benefits. However, as soon as the project finishes the implementation phase the main action remains to ‘monitor and control’ the new process parameter, where the senior management may not find it very engaging. Their focus shifts to other progressing projects and their implementations. Once the focus of the top management shifts, it would have a cascading effect on each employee of the company. Even the project team loses their passion because they are not getting the same attention they use to get earlier. Eventually, the project results start plummeting.
The visual management board is one of the ideal ways of keeping the interest alive. The Dashboard should be placed at a prominent place, where every individual can see the trend of the project result. There shall be a schedule for frequent discussion with the team leaders for both positive outcomes and challenges. Management’s interest delivers a widespread message that the project is of high importance for the company and shall sustain because the project’s forecasted financial gains are only possible if the results sustain.
Control is one of the most important DMAIC phases, however at the same time the most ignored segment in the Continuous Improvement journey. Planning for sustainability from the beginning of the process improvement project will ensure that the result remains intact and retain its positive trajectory.
Process improvement is a long journey, taking similar steps again is waste under Lean philosophy. Deploying these six steps is a cultural change activity. Once established it will go long miles to sustain the long-lasting improvement results for an organization.
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