Three Pillars to Continuous Improvement | Upland PowerSteering

8 minute read

Team PowerSteering

A successful continuous improvement initiative rests on three main pillars. The ability of a project leader and project team to adhere to these pillars will have a direct impact on the success – or failure – of the initiative within the organization.

This article looks at three pillars to help you structure and lead a project to ensure the most successful outcome.

1. Keep visibility and accountability in mind from the start

Let’s start with visibility and accountability. Projects often fail due to a lack of accountability for project status and outcomes. How a project leader promotes better visibility to the project, can directly impact the success of a project.

When you think about the project activities going on in any Continuous Improvement(CI) initiative, there is very little visibility or understanding of what the resources are working on or the status or progress of the project. The project lead spends puts in a lot of effort going on to try to get visibility into this information and share it with others.

If there is no visibility into what a resource is working on, then there is little accountability to deliver to any key dates or any promised outcomes. Without information flowing to the project lead, the resource is basically anonymous to the organization and they sit in dread or getting a call to explain what they are working on. This is no way to run an initiative.

With clear visibility, project goals such as savings, quality enhancement, or defect reduction targets are spelled out in a Charter. In most cases, the Charter is usually in a PowerPoint deck the project manager keeps and must update. This Charter is rarely in a single place visible to everyone so without the visibility, accountability suffers. Due dates get extended, nobody is informed, and nobody is asking questions because they don’t know the questions to ask. The resource focuses on keeping their head down and hoping they get through the project without pain.

Unlike a SharePoint site, email or shared documents, PPM software provides a real-time collaborative platform. The PPM solution has information on all the projects in one place and can leverage the information and knowledge of the projects. Without a PPM solution, you hear statements such as, “Well I sent you an email” or “It was in an attachment in my second email.” Everything having to do with the project is not accessible by everyone because it is scattered across emails, shared drives, or somewhere.

Tech tip:  Upland PowerSteering keeps everything is in one central system, including the Charter. The project lead has the history of all project activities, documents, and other items are in one place and are completely visible for those with the permissions to see them, and the project stakeholders have all the information they need to make decisions.

2. Keep everyone aligned on common goals and objectives

Another key pillar we want to look at is alignment.  One of the challenges with alignment is that business goals and objectives are not always clearly communicated or understood.

When we look at any organizational transformation effort like a Six Sigma initiative, what the organization is trying to do is not always clear. You hear things like, “We are going to have a Six Sigma initiative” or “We are going to train a lot of people and they are going to do projects.” Naturally, a few questions pop up:

What changes is the organization trying to effect? What are the major objectives as an organization? Is it revenue growth? Cost reduction? Customer satisfaction? Net Promoter Score improvement?

What should projects be focused on for each area of improvement?

When the answers to those questions are provided and made clear to everyone involved, we can be sure our projects are centered around those goals and have the proper support to back them up.

The next step is to make those goals visible. Communicate the targets and make sure the SMART (Specific and Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) objectives are spelled out and communicated to everybody. Next, select projects with those objectives in mind.

The projects need to be scored and aligned to be sure they can help achieve those objectives. If it is seen as a worthwhile project, but has no alignment with or structure around achieving those objectives, maybe it is something we should put off until later.

Tech tip: Upland PowerSteering features configurable scoring and alignment mechanism to help ensure everyone’s focus is the same as the corporate objectives.

3. Be efficient with productivity

The last pillar we want to look at is productivity.

One of the challenges with productivity is that project leaders and team members can feel like they’re often re-inventing the wheel. After all, there is a reason why people go to training to learn the Lean methods and how to execute Lean projects. It is because there is a method and set of tools proven to be successful. You want to be able to drive the execution of those kinds of projects using those tools, using that methodology, so everyone will know how to do it consistently.

You can do this based on the CI methodology you are using, with the steps, stages, and tools you can use, giving you direction, and creating common understanding of the methodology, regardless of it’s PDCA, DMAIC, or another CI methodology.

A PPM solution can serve as a leveraged knowledge base. Everything is resource by key words and by major areas. You can designate a successful process solution project as best practice, search for best practices, and share that information with your team. What we have found is half of the benefit of that type of leveraging of knowledge is simply having the contact information of those people involved in the successful project.

Like we said before, one of the benefits of using a central system is it helps keep track of similar projects that took place in the past. Project or team leaders can look at the notes and learn from what happened. You can also find the contact information for person that ran it and people that were on that team and talk to those folks about their experience, learn what they found, why they did what they did, and how they came to the solution they came to.

Tech tip: Upland PowerSteering can act as a knowledge base for all of your initiatives. Everything is organized by keywords and by major focus areas. You can designate a successful process solution project as best practice, search for best practices, and share that information with your team.

How PPM software supports Continuous Improvement

When you think about an initiative like Lean or Six Sigma, there are a number of processes and methods used to improve the way people do work and to improve outcomes of the organization. Having a PPM solution gives you the ability to gather data about the effort such as how projects are executed, how long they took, which ones are more effective than others. You will be able to pull and mine that data and torture that data until it confesses (this is a great, old Six Sigma saying).

A PPM solution will have all the data recorded in terms of when the project started, who is doing it, what were the targets, what were they types of projects being executed, how long did they take, and what the cycle times were between phases and in the project overall. You can find out which projects are more effective and produce higher outcomes and which ones you can drive quicker. By doing the work, you are gathering data about the work so you can apply the data to improving the project and the process.

Continuous Improvement case study

In this on demand webinar, Paul Simons, VP of Strategy and Mergers & Acquisitions at The Heritage Group, shares the personal lessons he went through to help others embrace a culture of continuous improvement.

Paul and other business leaders brought together a diverse portfolio of more than 30 organizations with a common language and understanding to define, track, and prove project performance, which includes servicing the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Tune in to learn:

  • the seven core principles that led the way for continuous improvement and change management (17 minutes)
  • what senior leadership and program champions need to know to help separate “urgent” work from “important” work (22 minutes)
  • how project leaders can work with their finance team to move away from tracking PowerPoint dollars to real dollars in one central system (33 minutes)

He also offers some great insight into the training, project leadership, and employee recognition that kept The Heritage Group’s continuous improvement journey going at full speed.

Click here to watch on demand!

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