Process Improvement Lessons

Robert Schultek Author of
The Gauntlet

Process improvement projects must navigate disruptions, resource constraints, egos, and other challenges. And like the military’s awareness that no plan survives first contact with the enemy, the same is true for your project plan, substituting ‘reality’ for ‘enemy.’

Here are some project lessons learned for your consideration:

– Every process has a primary constraint where work-in-progress builds. Find yours and design your new process to minimize that constraint’s impact on productivity. Then, find the next constraint, and so on.

When allotting times per action step, don’t forget to account for the time invested between steps; this is where you often find the constraint.

– To optimize agility, minimize dependent process steps, replacing these with parallel steps where possible, or developing contingencies if no other option is available.

– Identify go/no go milestones in your plan based on irreversible actions or unrecoverable cost, and stress test them ASAP.

– Complete the most challenging parts of your plan when team energy is high and your budget hasn’t been depleted.

– Reserve some resources for anticipated high-risk actions/decisions, and for those you can’t foresee. Build slack buffers for critical dependent components.

– Encourage the project team to assess alternative ways forward so the most effective option may be identified. Prioritize inputs from those with experience, skill, and influence versus those who are the loudest. Secure team commitment and accountability for those decisions; then, lock them in and resist changing them.

– When assigning each task, select a person who is least busy from among those who can do the job; avoid assigning tasks to the project leader.

How might these insights improve your process improvement projects?

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