In my roles as a Director and Vice President of Quality in Corporate America the biggest issue I faced was convincing top management to be patient in expecting the results of our process improvement efforts. It did not matter if it was Lean, Total Quality, Six Sigma or any other continuous improvement effort they wanted quick results in business performance improvement.
Many organizations struggle with identifying issues to address through improvement projects. Most top executives do not want to wait 6 -12 months to see a return on their improvement investment. So as change agents we need to consider a different approach to process improvement. Why not take the agile approach? This approach to process improvement provides unique solutions to the problem of convincing executives to wait for results. It focuses on helping organizations identify opportunities for improvement in an efficient and value-added way.
We can still use traditional, practical problem- solving tools and methods but how about adapting them to significantly increases the depth of analysis within the process being examined coupled with logical and well-known methods to prioritize, categorize and schedule the improvement opportunities for quick resolution.
Supervisors, managers and high-level executives in almost every industry will find the concepts and methods of agile process improvement invaluable for driving performance improvement. The practicality of the approach will help strengthen the problem-solving skills of the organization and transform it from a firefighting mind-set to a proactive identifier of process improvement and effective problem solvers.
I have given a lot of thought to the waiting issue and have developed what I call Agile Lean Process Improvement. It just an practical adaptation of lean and other continuous improvement tools to identify, prioritize and categorize projects into implementation.
Willie Carter has nearly four decades of continuous improvement experience, which have enabled him be a good listener, teacher, coach and leader as he helps organizations do more with less and become more agile. In addition to his consulting practice, he is on the adjunct faculty at Roosevelt University, Chicago, IL.
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