Think Your Way Through The Improve Phase

Posted by on May 24, 2020 in Improve Phase, Lean Six Sigma, Six Sigma | 0 comments

You and your team have identified the causes of your problem and are now ready to develop solutions that will keep the problem from ever occurring again.  In this phase, the team will develop, test, pilot, and implement the solutions for the problem or issue they’re trying to improve.

Some critical checkpoints for this phase are:

  • Try to generate several possible solutions.  The goal is to implement a solution that is the most effective and the least costly as possible.  My experience has been that the more possible solutions generated, the better the solution that will ultimately be implemented.
  • The solution identified should be piloted on a small scale to ensure it works and so all the “bugs” can be worked out.  Very few solutions are implemented without some problems arising.  Typically, the problems are small and usually require communication or an operational definition to resolve.  Once all the bugs are worked out, the solution is then ready for full-scale implementation.
  • In addition to working out the “bugs,” you’ll want to obtain evidence that the piloted solution addresses the problem.  This may take a little time and require you to re-visit your charter to review the project objectives.  Again, this is another reason to pilot the solution.  You can easily tweak a solution to make it more effective if it is being piloted versus a solution that has been fully implemented.
  • Once your piloted solution is thoroughly debugged and verified, you, your team, and project sponsor will want to develop plans for full-scale implementation of the solution and how they will be carried out.  You’ll want to review any problems you uncovered in the pilot phase, how you addressed them and anything else you learned to generate the full-scale implementation plans.

Appropriate questions your project sponsor or champion may ask in the improve phase tollgate are:

  • How did you and your team generate potential solutions?
  • What criteria, i.e., cost, time to implement, etc. did you use to evaluate your potential solutions?  How do the criteria relate to the key performance indicators?
  • Show me your prioritization matrix.
  • What potential problems, errors, or other failure modes did you and your team identify?  How were they addressed?
  • Show me the data you collected during the pilot tests.  What was the impact on the root causes and key performance indicators or measures?
  • Show me your cost-benefit analysis.
  • Show me the plan for full-scale implementation.
  • If appropriate, show me the revised process map, swim lane diagram, future state value stream map or other diagrams to describe the new process.
  • What steps can be taken to manage the cultural impact of the full-scale implementation?  Who will be affected by the changes and how?  What is being done to facilitate the change?
  • Describe the business case for full-scale implementation of the chosen solution(s).  How will this affect customers?
  • What are the results of the full-scale implementation?
  • Show me your before and after data.  How much of the original gap was closed?  How much remains?
  • What is the new process sigma?
  • Did you identify any unexpected problems?  How did you resolve them and what happened?

The solution you implement will have a large impact on the organization, now and in the future.  Just like identifying the root causes of your problem or issue, the solution you identify and implement will impact your credibility as a Lean Six Sigma practitioner.  The process of identifying, piloting, and full-scale implementation needs to be well-thought-out.



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