It’s spring break time and college students from all over the country are hitting the beaches. What could go wrong? (Plenty if the video evidence is to be believed.) While it is unlikely that a poorly executed rapid improvement event will leave your office looking like a Miami Beach hotel room after a week of occupation by a bunch of co-eds, there’s still plenty that can go awry leaving you with more headaches than improvement. Here are a few of the messes you want to avoid.
Let’s Boil the Ocean, or Whatever
Rapid improvement events are designed to target a very specific problem of small enough scope that it can be addressed in a condenced period of time, usually 3 – 5 days. They do not work well for massive organizational changes or for completely redesigning processes that span multiple departments. They also are not successful if there is no clear definition of the problem to be addressed.
We Don’t Need No Supervision
Collaboration is essential to a successful rapid improvement event, but leadership is also required. There should be one person designated to facilitate the event, manage the pre-event planning, and report the results. They should be able to help the team overcome any unexpected obstacles and garner all the necessary resources. Without a strong leader, people can become confused about who is doing what, work can be duplicated, and divisive disagreements can erupt.
We’ll Recognize Success When We See It
While it may seem safer to begin a rapid improvement event with no set goal or no way to measure whether you’ve achieved it, that won’t lead to useful results. Successful events involve a clear understanding of the current state, a good definition of the desired state, and a way to measure the delta between them in terms of efficiency, cost, quality, or other tangible business metrics.
Only the Cool Kids Are Invited
It is tempting to round up the usual suspects and involve only experienced folks who work together often in your event, but it is a mistake. Rapid improvement events are excellent training grounds for people who are new to Lean. They are also a great way to invite cross-functional collaboration and develop new relationships.
That Was Fun, What’s Next?
Don’t let people get the idea that when the event is over, it’s over. While the goal is to implement the improvement during the event, work to ensure that it is sustained, communicated, and measured needs to continue long after. Depending on the nature of the improvement, it may be prudent to schedule a 30-day, 60-day, 90-day, six-month and one-year analysis. Yes, you want rapid improvement, but you also need lasting improvement.
By avoiding these common pitfalls, you’ll increase your chance of success and earn a high-five from everyone involved.