No Method, No Problem? Ah, Not So Fast!

Posted by on Feb 24, 2019 in Continuous Improvement, Lean Six Sigma, Process Improvement | 0 comments

How you do things is extremely important if you’re looking to provide consistent products and services to your customers.  We all like going to our favorite restaurant knowing that our meal will come out just the way we ordered it.  My wife has used the same beautician for the past 20 years because of the consistency she gets by going there.  I’ve been going to the same barber shop for over 30 years because of it’s convenience and because I know all the barbers there and they do a nice job.  We tend to go to the same grocery stores, hardware stores, etc. because we know where things are and we get good advise and service if we need it.

But what about our workplace?  How many times do we stop and ask ourselves “Am I doing this task the best way possible?” or “Are our employees doing the job the way we want it done?”  My experience indicates that companies that struggle in an area generally have not taken the time to document exactly how they want the job done, which can lead to inconsistencies, errors, and unhappy customers.

An example of this occurred several years ago when a company called and asked if I could help reduce their accounts receivables.  They had assigned the problem to a new Black Belt and the team was struggling to make some improvement.  In a short time, I found they did not have a documented method for their accounts receivable process, specifically what is the process or procedure to follow when a customer owes them $10,000 and how does that change if the customer owes $100,000 or $250,000?  All the accountants were doing something different depending on their personal relationship with their customer.

In this case, a documented method didn’t exist.  But what about when you have a documented procedure and you’re still having issues?  My experience indicates that either the existing procedures are not adequate, something has changed, or someone is not following the process and possibly taking some shortcut.  This is the perfect time to do an internal process audit to determine where the problem lies.

Here are some other things you may want to consider and investigate:

  • Do you have documented procedures, standard work, etc. for processes that are important to your operation?
  • Are your procedures, standards, and policies reviewed and updated on a regular basis?
  • How easy are your procedures and policies to follow?  Have you made them too complex and difficult for people to follow?
  • Do you conduct internal process audits to ensure everyone is following your procedures and policies correctly?
  • How well have you trained employees?  Do they have access to procedures if they need to refer to them?  Do they know what to do when a problem occurs?  Who do they notify?

You can’t take anything for granted.  If you’re having issues in an area, start with the checklist above.  It may lead you to an “ah ha” moment!

 

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