Lean Six Sigma’s DMAIC – Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and finally Control – I was recently at the PEX Exchange event held at Pinehurst, NC, and was able to meet process professionals from major Fortune 100 & 500 companies. There were several common issues and themes which repeatedly emerged during my conversations and meetings with PEX professionals.
One of the most notable issues was the shared experience of going through a process improvement project only to return later to find there has been degradation from the proposed solution, or even outright fallback to the previous, sub-optimal state.
Control in these instances was little more than, “We’ve improved your processes and given you some new ones which will work better for you, so please follow them.”
There appears to be a problem with sustaining process improvements, and ensuring staff who are working with them do in fact adopt them. Developing and implementing a control plan does not appear to work very effectively, with misunderstandings fairly common among team members adopting the new processes. Also, executing on setting a cut-off point where the process excellence team’s involvement comes to an end seems to be problematical too.
The frustrating thing is that after all the time and effort to Define, Measure, Analyze & Improve, the gains from process improvements are lost if there is a failure of Control. More than this, there is the opportunity cost associated with the process team’s time and resources, plus the disruption caused by the exercise to begin with.
So how can HighGear help establish Control?
HighGear is an ideal leave-behind which manages and monitors processes you put in place, delivering the level of control many process improvement projects are missing.
HighGear includes three major pieces of functionality which allow you to establish the guard rails to enforce adherence to new processes, plus exceptions to workflows can also be flagged.
Enterprise Task Management
Task management functionality ensures that you every worker understands what work they must be focusing on at ‘this’ particular moment. Task management functionality within HighGear also provides the ability to have all files, documentation and artifacts attached to the task as it flows through your processes, including archiving all email conversations and team notes.
However, while a task is the basic unit of work which flows through a process, workflow rules are also required, so…
HighGear provides workflow tools, including Visual Workflow, which allow non-technical users to create and modify processes on–the-fly. This means that everyone associated with a process knows exactly what work needs to be done, by whom, and by when: all following your rules, policies and workflow routes considered to deliver improvement through the DMAI parts of the project.
But, you need to be able to enforce your rules and policies, so…
Compliance & Enforcement
HighGear has the ability to ensure that no task can be closed unless certain, prescribed actions have been taken by whoever is working on it. So, for instance, if a specified action is required then you can make the check box indicating it has been completed a mandatory input before the task can be marked as closed (and then move onto the next step in your workflow). Further, if the worker must attach a file to the task, for instance a photograph of the work, or a set of updated notes or data, then again the task status cannot be set to closed unless the file has been uploaded in fact.
But, what happens when you need to see the results of the process improvements, or indeed, if there are exceptions to the new processes you have created…?
Automated Reporting & BI
You have established tasks, created workflows and now have the ability to enforce compliance and rules created, but there are two issues.
Exceptions will occur, either because someone is deliberately breaking the rules and failing to adopt new processes, or because there are genuine issues, edge cases, which your new processes find themselves unable to handle effectively.
When these occur, management needs to be made aware of them, and HighGear can automatically notify named managers, or a class of recipients when a task is in danger of becoming overdue, is indeed overdue, or where a non-standard procedure has been followed.
More generally required is the reporting of data and results from the process improvements created, for comparison with the prior state. HighGear has the ability for automated reporting and distribution, ensuring that the metrics and information you need are readily available, either on a recurring schedule or an ad hoc basis. In addition, reports will only contain that information that each recipient is allowed to see, based on Role-based Permissions.
HighGear is an ideal leave-behind for DMAIC and process improvement projects.
You are able to enforce compliance with new workflows, ensuring tasks follow your preset rules and policies, as well as being able to report on micro- and macro-data associated with the processes involved.
HighGear will also greatly speed up your process improvement reiteration, as it is exceptionally fast and provides for easy, quick modification of processes in hours or days, rather than weeks or months.