Process quality improvement projects can quickly become derailed due to communication problems, time uncertainties, and lack of coordination among team members, thus it's important that you organize the right team for the process improvement.
Once the process to be improved has been selected, and the boundaries established, the next critical step is selecting the “right” team to work on improving the process.
The right team consists of a good representation of people who work inside the boundaries of the process and have an intimate knowledge of the way it works. These people are the "process stakeholders".
Studies have shown that teams consisting of 5 to 7 members seem to function most effectively. While larger teams are not uncommon, studies have shown that teams with more than 8 to 10 members may have trouble reaching consensus and achieving objectives.
Team leaders may be chosen in any of several ways.
Senior management, a department head, or process owner may appoint a knowledgeable individual to lead the team, or the process owner may opt to fill the position personally.
Alternatively, the team members may elect the team leader from their own ranks during the first meeting. Any of these methods of selecting a leader is acceptable.
Team leaders have the following responsibilities:
Team members for quality improvement projects should be selected by the team leader or the individual who formed the team. Members may be from different divisions, departments, functions, or pay rates depending on the nature of the process improvement. The key factor is that the people selected for the team should be closely involved in the process that is being improved.
Being a team member also carries certain responsibilities.
Members are responsible for carrying out all team-related work assignments, such as data collection, data analysis, presentation development, sharing knowledge, and participation in team discussions and decisions.
Ideally, when actual process workers are on a team, they approach these responsibilities as an opportunity to improve the way their jobs are done, rather than as extra work.
A charter is a document that describes the boundaries, expected results, and resources to be used by a process quality improvement team. A charter is usually provided by the individual or group who formed the team. Sometimes the process owner or the team members develop a charter.
A charter is always required for a team working on a process that crosses departmental lines. A charter may not be necessary for a team that is improving a process found solely within a work center of office space.
A charter should identify the following:
Other information pertinent to the process quality improvement effort may also be included, such as the recommended frequency of meetings, or any other elements deemed necessary by those chartering the team.
Quality improvement teams should develop a clear-cut set of ground rules for the operation of the team. The ground rules act as a code of conduct for team members and provide a basic structure for conducting effective meetings.
Some areas in which ground rules should be established are:
Guidelines for effective process quality improvement team meetings:
At this juncture, team members need to receive some training that will help them reach their process quality improvement objectives.
The Team Leader or Quality Facilitator should provide training on how to operate effectively as a team as well as just-in-time training in the use of the basic process quality improvement tools.
Free Six Sigma uses and recommends these great process quality improvement tools. You can get additional information here.
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 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.
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