Business Improvement Primer
A critique often used of business people is that they do not have time to do things right, but they always have time to do them over. People, managers and workers alike, want to do things right but are so busy they believe they don’t have time to work on improving their work. A small investment in time now can save a lot of time long term. Everyone knows that but not all know how to start.
Think of the workplace as a system made up of individual processes. Dr. Deming defined a system as a network of interdependent components that work together to accomplish the aim of the system. This aim must be clearly defined by management so that all may work together moving in the same direction. The interdependent components or processes can be reviewed for ways to improve, as no process is perfect.
An easy way to start is the Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle.
Start by identifying a process that may be an irritation or a suspect of a problem. List all the steps involved and look for opportunities to improve. Always keep in mind the system aim and Plan a change that will help to achieve it. It need not be a big change, just an improvement in the right direction.
Then Do it, make the change on a pilot basis if possible. This can be done on an individual basis or in conjunction with other workers in the process and a supervisor. Document what you have done and list all of your assumptions. Often at a later time we wonder why we took some action so it is good to be able to look back and refresh our memory.
Study the results, does the change improve the outcome or make it worse. Collect data when possible to be able to support your Plan or disprove it. Share if desired or needed. Study the impact, not only on this process, but ramifications in other parts of the organization. Our studies in physics taught us, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction somewhere else.
If the Action works, document it so the change is permanent and knowledge gained can be used elsewhere in the system. If it doesn’t obtain desired results, go back to the plan step and find another improvement to try. By the same token, if it works, also plan another change. PDSA is a cycle, not a linear path with a finite end to go around on a continual basis.
As always, communication is important. Ensure you know why things are done in a certain way before you change them. Share your knowledge learned with fellow workers and management.
Finding ways to improve the organization is very satisfying. The quality of the processes defines the quality of the work. Everyone wants to be proud of his or her work and continual improvement of the work processes provides that satisfaction.