Today’s competitive marketplace demands that organizations strive to be the lowest cost, highest quality supplier in order to garner more market share. Organizations that stagnate may have been market leaders once but resting on past results without driving positive change will move those that once led to the back of the pack. Implementing continuous improvement via a dedicated team is vital to preventing that from happening.
Build your team
Continuous improvement is an internal initiative that uses the expertise and experience of personnel across all disciplines within the organization. Cross functional teams are assembled and empowered to improve process quality and effectiveness. Members of cross functional teams should be drawn from Operations, Technical, Maintenance, Quality, Procurement, Shipping, Receiving and other associated departments to bring a multi-disciplined view of issues and problems.
The only characteristic required of each team member is the desire to volunteer for team membership. Members should never be forced to join teams and not everyone should be expected to join one. Companies may choose to limit teams to salaried personnel or build teams from both salaried and wage ranks, while experienced team members or external individuals can then be selected to lead the groups. As group members become more experienced they learn how to lead future teams.
Tools and training
To make groups as efficient and effective as possible, they must be mobilized to work towards the solution to a very specific and focused issue. Ground rules should be agreed upon early and include the frequency of meetings as well as the weekly time commitment for team members as it is not their full time job.
Led by the Team Leader, the group should be given the autonomy to employ a variety of tools. These tools may come from Lean Manufacturing (value stream mapping), Six Sigma (data analysis) or Quality Circles (root cause analysis). The Leader must train team members to use the tools, making each member of the team more valuable to the organization and better prepared to participate in later teams and for those who so wish, lead teams in the future.
Implementation and progress
Teams must be expected and encouraged to “think outside the box” and come up with solutions to the issue being worked on from their own experiences. Initially, the current state must be measured and used as a baseline. As the team works towards a solution, it should identify an implementation strategy, which they must follow through and then measure and compare results to the baseline. Throughout the life of the team, an action item log should be used to track assignments for the team. The log should contain a description of the task, responsible person and due date, while the action item list should be reviewed at the start of each meeting and items when necessary.
For additional leadership, quality control and assurance that teams are keeping on track and showing progress, regular reviews must be conducted with a steering committee made up of the site’s executive leadership. The committee should meet with teams that are in progress and follow a set agenda to ensure the team is headed down the right path.
Success and recognition
As teams progress in their development, the baseline (current state) results should be compared to the implemented solution (future state). Upon arriving at a pre-defined point, the results can be considered a success. Ongoing tracking of results will determine sustainability.
The team should then celebrate their results and be recognized within the organization for their accomplishment. Success is a positive addiction and as each success perpetuates others, the process will encourage further employees to take part in the initiative.
Internal continuous improvement teams are key to establishing ownership of results and true sustainability. And when market conditions change and external factors dictate addition change, the company will be well-placed to respond successfully and sustainably with its own internal capability.
For more information about T.A. Cook, please visit: http://us.tacook.com/
T.A. Cook Consultants Inc.
21 Waterway Avenue, Suite 300
The Woodlands, TX 77380
Telephone number: +1-281-362-2716