Sunday, January 2, 2011

After the Victory

So, let us imagine that we have successfully implemented a process improvement. Victory at last! What may surprise many readers is that the improvement effort has not completed yet. In fact, a large percentage of successful process improvement efforts slide back to square one after the improvement has been made and the effort declared a success.

Let us take a closer look at this phenomenon. What typically happens after a successful improvement effort is that the improvement team or specialist gets moved to another improvement effort. Upper management, too, lessen their attention on the team that was undergoing the improvement. This results in the recently improved team or department in a fledgling state and very susceptible to moving back to their old (bad) habits. Furthermore, they may not be entirely comfortable with the analysis and effort required and without the specialist’s presence may end up spending excessive time and effort on what should be quick and easy. This in turn gravitates the team members to go back to their old ways.

To ensure that this does not happen, even after an improvement effort is declared a success, lines of communication between leadership, the improvement specialists and the team being improved must remain open. Regular checkups with the team should be performed by the improvement specialists albeit less frequently. An improvement effort is not an on/off switch but rather a living, breathing thing that must be properly cared for.