10 Top Tips For Implementing Quality Improvement Projects

1.New Programs and Initiatives
The Quality Improvement program (Lean, Kaizen, Six Sigma, Continuous Improvement, TPM etc) must not impose a completely new initiative on your business. Where possible use existing tools, terms and systems, especially where these are associated with good business results. It may be necessary to adapt the new program as necessary. If people feel the program is a process they are already familiar with, it avoids the “here we go with yet another extra-hot chilli flavour of the month” mentality.

2.A Solid Framework
A good “improvement mindset” or framework for a sustainable system must already exist within the business, where as many people as possible understand and are committed to continuing the process. As a minimum, the new system should encourage more idea generation, collection and selection, team formation and formal approaches to problem solving, recognition and communication and lastly tracking. Try to gain commitment from everyone in the business about the basic framework right at the start and ensure there is a common and agreed understanding about the big picture of how the Quality Management initiative will be applied.

3.Give Credit
In most businesses, Quality Improvement initiatives are not really brand new out of the box thinking, as many people have already been exposed to and worked on Quality Improvement concepts for a long time, and with some successes. It’ s important to acknowledge past achievements and recognise the champions who made it happen by assigning them significant roles for the new wave. If however, the approach has been fire fighting, you may want to build a different team and approach the initiative more proactively. If past projects were not successful then it’s important to show how the new initiative differs from the previous and why it stands a better chance for success.

4. Encourage Ideas
Ideas should come from anyone and no ideas should be turned away. Make everyone aware of the criteria for setting priorities and what the targets are for the Quality Improvement initiative. Assign responsibilities or sponsors who should stimulate the generation of ideas in their areas of influence.  There should always be a surplus of ideas waiting for implementation. Any ideas that are rejected or put on hold should be fed back to the originator, explaining the rationale for the decision.

5.Individual or Pilot Project selection
Depending on your approach, it may be necessary to start off the program on a small scale or as a “Pilot”. If this is the case, the criteria for selecting the first projects should be based on a project whose results directly benefit and impact many people in the business, and where such results are visible within a couple of months. It’s worth selecting a purpose made “A Team” to spearhead the Pilot. This “Hit Squad” should comprise people who are ready to talk about what is going on to all their colleagues and people who want to see improvement happen.

6.Involve and Work through people
Avoid being prescriptive with each step of your approach, rather opting to use a facilitated approach to get support and buy in from the teams involved. Always be open to a team using a different approach though still aligned to the overall objectives. Forcing things down people’s throats doesn’t really work well. Good facilitation should allow for a team to reach a pre-conceived conclusion on their own accord. On the same vein, allow the teams to decide what tasks and actions are to be done and offer to help rather than allocate tasks directly to the different people.

7. Keep Everyone Informed of Progress and Results.
The success of a good Quality Improvement program depends on good feedback and communication surrounding  progress. Reports on Progress can take many forms, as long as relevant and timely information is communicated. It’s also important to publicly celebrate any success coming out of the program. Lastly, where new records have been set and old Improvement Targets “smashed”, set new targets and make them known.

8. What Gets Measured Gets Managed.

Put in place a good monitoring system to track the number of ideas generated over time, the level participation of people at any one time and cumulatively during the process, the rate of implementation and the Return on Investment or benefits. Tracking and showing a direct correlation between efforts and benefits is the best way to sustain a Quality Program. Use agreed targets and KPI’s as your “dipstick” check. I recently posted an article on Why Your Business Should Care about KPI’s on my blog that you can refer to for more details on KPI’s.

9. Stakeholder Sponsorship
When it comes to supporting and sponsoring Quality Programs, Time Investment is worth more than its weight in gold in my opinion, especially if this “time” is offered by Top Management. A visibly committed top management always sends the right message throughout the organisation and demonstrates “walking the talk”. Sometimes it takes no more effort than attending and supporting a Project team session, meeting or gathering on a regular basis. A senior manager being seen with sleeves rolled up on the Gemba or shopfloor, frontline office is the best form of propaganda.

10. Fun & Relevant

A good way to keep your Quality Programs alive and a bit of a missed opportunity really, is the ability to tap into the use of modern technology and in particular the internet, Web 2.0 tools and smart phone applications. More and more people continue to use social networking platforms and smart phone applications as an extension and expression of who they are. There are huge benefits in using elements of these tools to support your initiative whilst keeping it relevant, fun and up to date. For example use Twitter to gather intelligence about what people are saying about your product or service quality, create Facebook pages for internal use, use YouTube to share and socialise results and of course use the hundreds of Free Productivity Improvement Applications available with most smart phone systems. What ever you do, have fun with your program.

How do you create a Buzz with your Quality Management Initiatives ?

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For more resources, see our Library topic Quality Management.
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