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Lean and fit

6 performance improvement tips for your organisation

Why do some process improvement efforts succeed and others do not? This paper outlines six tenets to help companies think beyond what is currently “known” and bring more “intelligence” to process improvement.

Executive summary / key findings

If ever there was an ultramarathon in business, process improvement is it. It requires discipline, patience, consistency, and lots of hard work. When process improvement methodologies first came into vogue in the 1980s and ‘90s, they challenged 50 or more years of conventional manufacturing wisdom, enabling companies to improve manufacturing quality, reduce production waste, eliminate bottlenecks, streamline processes, and cut costs. Twenty or more years down the path, many variations of standard process improvement techniques and tools have been introduced. Along with them have come many opinions about which techniques and tools are most effective.

This paper outlines six tenets to help companies think beyond what is currently “known” and bring more “intelligence” to process improvement:

1.Challenge conventional wisdom - an increasingly accepted “truth” in process improvement is that Lean Six Sigma is a fad with limited applicability and success. This is not necessarily the case however: Companies that stick with a demonstrated  and time-tested approach realize an average of 40 percent more benefit than those that don’t;

2.Stretch beyond process mapping – process mapping should be used in conjunction with data driven analytical tools to maximize efficiency;

3.Follow the facts - when teams act on opinions, they often jump to the wrong conclusion. A more “intelligent” approach is to convert opinions into hypotheses and test them with data before acting on them;

4.Buy runs, not players - addressing the symptoms of  problems alone virtually guarantees they will reappear. When problems are identified and addressed at their core, the benefits tend to be greater and longer lasting;

5.Carry it across the goal line - Teams that take a thoughtful approach to engaging key stakeholders in the process improvement exercise tend to improve the quality of the analysis;

6.Two heads are better than one - While training is essential for obtaining skills and knowledge, coaching and mentorship help people apply learning in the real world.

One incontrovertible fact remains: lean six sigma continues to be one of the most prevalent and consistently productive approaches to process improvement. By following the six tenets described in this paper, companies can continue to leverage lean six sigma for solid results in the modern ultramarathon that process improvement represents.

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