Step 11: Continuous Quality Improvement Pilot

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In this part of the continuous quality improvement process, if feasible, a process change is implemented on a pilot basis (limited) before it is applied to the entire organization. 

For example, a process change can be instituted in a single office or work center while the rest of the organization continues to use the old process. If the organization is working on a shift basis, the changed process could be tried on one shift while the other shifts continue as before.

When you don't make a process change when change is actually needed - you continue to pay for the change but never actually get it!

Whatever method you and the team apply, the goals are to:

  • Prove the effectiveness of the process change, 
  • Avoid widespread failure, 
  • Maintain organization-wide support. 

In some situations, a small-scale test may not be feasible. If that is the case, you'll have to inform everyone involved of the nature and expected effects of the change and conduct training adequate to support a full-scale pilot.

Quality Improvement Process - Piloting a Process Change

During the pilot, it's important to use the data collection plan developed in the previous steps of the quality improvement process. It must be appropriate so that the results of the process change can be evaluated. 

Also understand that it's human nature to sometimes react unfavorably to a disruption such as process change. Change takes people out of their comfort zone and because of this there can sometimes be reactions of resistance.Yet continuous quality improvement requires continuous change. 

As Niccolo Machiavelli wrote -

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” 

Take the following actions in conducting the process change pilot.These actions will help with "people management" and to determine whether the change actually resulted in process improvement:

  • Create and/or finalize the pilot plan.
  • Create and/or prepare the data collection sheets.
  • Train everyone involved in the process change pilot. Help them understand the "pain" associated with the current-state and the reduction of pain in the future-state.
  • Distribute the data collection sheets.
  • Change the process and pilot the improvement. Assure that the data collection plan has been implemented as expected.
  • Collect and analyze the data.

Quality Improvement Process

Step 1: Select the process to be improved and establish a well-defined process improvement objective. The objective can be established by the team or come from management.

Step 2: Organize a team to improve the process. This involves selecting the “right” people to serve on the team; identifying the resources available for the improvement effort, such as people, time, money, and materials; setting reporting requirements; and determining the team’s level of authority. These elements should be formalized in a written charter.

Step 3: Define the current process using a flow chart. This will generate a step-by-step map of the activities, actions, and decisions which occur between the starting and stopping points of the process.

Step 4: Simplify the process by removing redundant or unnecessary activities. It's likely that people may be seeing the process on paper in its entirety for the first time from Step 3. This can be a real "eye-opener" which will prepare them to take the first steps in improving the process.

Step 5: Develop a plan for collecting data and collect baseline data if it's not already being collected. This baseline data will be used as a "yardstick" later in the quality improvement process. This begins the
evaluation of the process against the process improvement objective established in Step 1. The flowchart in Step 3 is used to help determine who should collect data and where in the process data should be collected.

Step 6: Assess whether the process is stable. Create a control chart or run chart out of the data collected in Step 5 to gain a better understanding of what is happening in the process. Future actions of the team are dictated by whether special cause variation is found in the process.

Step 7: Assess whether the process is capable. Create a histogram to
compare the data collected in Step 5 against the process improvement objective established in Step 1. Usually the process simplification actions in Step 4 are not enough to make the process capable of meeting the objective and the team will have to continue on to Step 8 in search of root causes. Even if the data indicate that the process is meeting the objective, the team should consider whether it is feasible to improve the process further before going on to Step 14.

Step 8: Identify the root causes which prevent the process from meeting the objective. Use a cause-and-effect diagram or brainstorming to generate possible reasons why the process fails to meet the desired objective.

Step 9: Develop a plan for implementing a process change based on the possible reasons for the process’s inability to meet the objective set for it. These root causes were identified in Step 8. The planned quality improvement involves revising the steps in the simplified flowchart created after changes were made in Step 4.

Step 10: Modify the data collection plan developed in Step 5, if necessary.

Step 11: Test the changed process and collect data.

Step 12: Assess whether the changed process is stable . Same as Step 6, use a control chart or run chart to determine process stability. If the process is stable, the team can move on to Step 13; if not, you should return the process to its former state and plan another change.

Step 13: Assess whether the change improved the process. Using the data collected in Step 11 and a histogram, the team determines whether the process is closer to meeting the process improvement objective established in Step 1. If the objective is met, the team can progress to Step 14; if not, the team must decide whether to keep or discard the change.

Step 14: Determine whether additional process improvements are feasible. The team is faced with this decision following process simplification in Step 7 and again after initiating an improvement in Steps 8 through 13. In Step 14, the team has the choice of embarking on continuous process improvement by reentering the model at Step 9, or simply monitoring the performance of the process until
further improvement is feasible.

14 Step Quality Improvement Roadmap

Quality Improvement Process Roadmap

From continuous quality improvement to quality improvement

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