Prioritizing Process Improvements

Once opportunities for process improvements have been identified and solutions defined, it is important to prioritize these projects before attempting to address any. While many opportunities to improve quality and decrease waste often exist within an organization, it is unrealistic to assume each carries the same import or can yield measurable results within an acceptable time frame. The basic lean Six Sigma premise of raising the level of quality by lowering quantities of waste applies to process improvement plans as much as it applies to organizational operations.

Benefits of Prioritizing Process Improvements

There is much at stake in implementing process improvements. In the best case scenario, significant results are realized within a reasonable timeframe, the team that defined the solution is recognized for their contribution and an organization can better meet customer requirements. In the less than ideal case, however, if a process improvement meets extensive roadblocks, lacks management's support or cannot yield quantifiable results within the necessary time, the impact is considerable. Not only is organizational performance not improved, but there is also a risk the responsible team becomes demoralized and management loses enthusiasm for implementing a lean Six Sigma strategy.

Methods for Prioritizing Improvements

In order for an organization to successfully transform into a lean Six Sigma operation, the plan for implementing process improvements must be positioned to succeed. This is not a random occurrence; a realistic action plan is imperative. Keep the following in mind when developing an improvement plan.

  • Identify critical issues faced by the business and ensure process improvements that address these issues directly are given priority. Such improvements are more likely to garner full support from management and include less cumbersome removal of obstacles.
  • Determine the most critical issues from the customer's perspective. More often than not, an organization's customer base is a valuable and accurate resource in prioritizing improvements.
  • Evaluate whether a process improvement may be fully implemented and yield results within an acceptable timeframe. Projects requiring more than six months to complete risk losing steering team members to other responsibilities and demoralizing team members.
  • Consider how great an impact a process improvement can have upon the organization's overall profitability. Clearly improvements that can deliver the greatest impact should be favored over others.

Prioritizing process improvements is as individual as the organization's involved. In order for a lean Six Sigma transformation to succeed, processes must deliver measurable results that improve a company's ability to meet customer needs within an acceptable time. Decisions for prioritizing these improvements should be based upon an organization's method of operating, customer requirements, expected effectiveness and impact.