It is common to observe the introduction of changes in our teams, aiming at improving the current processes. The intention is good, however, in a totally unconscious way, the disordered application of improvements brings recurring results below their potential. The answer is to apply techniques that increase the effectiveness of the monitoring of its implementation, through an agile and structured method. Let's get the work done!
On a daily basis, it is fundamental to identify the problems that affect the teams and this should happen not only empirically by the elements that integrate them, but also through the frequent analysis of indicators with quantitative metrics. At this stage, an effective sorting is implicit, as employees repeatedly confuse opportunities for improvement with demands on current working conditions. Observing the causes of the problems is the subsequent step, allowing the design of practical solutions that must be evaluated beforehand in a perspective of effort and potential impact. So, without our noticing, we started the planning phase, assuming that the generated action must have associated the date of identification, closing and an owner. We state that empowerment is fundamental so that the team members feel an integral part of the process and the added value achieved with it. This is the easiest way to maintain improvement in the medium / long-term. Subsequently, it is necessary that the planned action be effectively put into practice up to the date previously defined, often called the implementation phase.
It is therefore essential to test and review the progress on a regular basis, and you may need to make specific adjustments. So, we are now in the confirmation phase.
Finally, it is essential to standardise and communicate the process and, if applicable, to encourage the implementation of good practices to other teams within the organisation itself. At this stage, acting is the key word.
The PDCA theory - Plan-Do-Check-Act - is thus essential in the operationalisation of improvement, whether in a framework of a collective dimension or as a portrayed, as in an individual context.
It is worth explaining the four steps in greater depth so that we can fully understand them and know in detail the function of each one of them. The theory presented dates from 1930 and shows us that the cycle - Plan-Do-Check-Act - also known as deming or shewhart cycle, is a four-step model used to effect a change or to improve a situation identified as an opportunity.
It is important to remember that the improvement cycle supports the follow-up of the improvements made throughout the process, and that action to improve is defined as a set of initiatives whose aim is to change - for the better - how the work is done and how the tasks are performed.
Briefly, here are the steps to follow:
1º Plan: action identification, release date, closing and owner
2º Do: action implementation
3º Check: action check or solution test, which includes analysis of the improvement results and possible adjustments
4º Act: standardisation, communication and deployment to other teams in the organisation
This is a simple process that can benefit from the introduction of Visual Management allowing effective follow-up of frequent improvement actions. Incorporated in a physical or digital frame, the PDCA should be easy to read and update, in order to enhance the use of the tool in a recurring way. It can be used in the team’s organisation itself or integrate, as an additional tool, to the management of any project within the organisation. In the limit, it can be a method of monitoring the actions associated with one's personal life, through a plan that can be written in a notebook or pictured on our home’s wall. Improving in a structured way is our challenge. Every day, anywhere.
Kaizen Institute is a multinational company that supports organizations in the design and imlementation of processes that enable continuous improvement in a sustained manner.