The greatest impact you can have on a project outcome is in the early phases, where during the concept design thinking, you create some of the success frameworks for delivery through which your project will evolve.
By the time you’re at the pre-construction, execution phase and beyond, it’s likely there’ll a whole lot of inefficiencies built into the project which result in many different types of waste.
Taiichi Ohno, whose founding role in the development of the concepts of Lean birthed the concept of Lean Manufacturing, identified 7 key types of waste all of which are very relevant but mostly invisible or ignored on large / major projects:
Mistakes or defects;
Overproduction of parts, raw materials, steel etc;
Stock or Inventories waiting around for a next stage in any given process;
People waiting for things to happen, materials to be available etc before they can proceed;
Unnecessary processing, doing things which are actually not even going to be required;
The mobilisation of teams where they are not required; and
Transport of goods that was not really required.
The same basic wastes occur just as much in most major projects as they do in manufacturing, causing expensive losses of time, money and negative morale.
The quality of the thinking and planning work done at the outset can however greatly reduce waste, but how do you do this, if the systems in place are already inefficient?
Lean Manufacturing, Lean Construction and Lean in an Enterprise, is all about the elimination of inefficiency and waste with a focus rather on high-performance cultures and efficient processes. The results include improved profitability, more engaged clients, more motivated teams and in many cases increased environmental sustainability.
By changing your up front thinking and the way you engage with your key clients, stakeholders, JV, Alliance, PPP or other project partners you can have a really positive influence around the success or failure or projects measured off the traditional time, cost, quality safety parameters we all ultimately live by.
A simple video description of some of the Lean Construction concepts can be found here:
Imagine if you could build continuous improvement (CI) into your business simply and easily? Since I’ve been seriously involved in performance improvement I have seen so many organisations get themselves all “Lean, Business Process Re-engineered, or Six Sigma’d up, then the teams who are now qualified go out and get few if any results. There are so many organisations who have so much potential but for many different reasons just never get the results.
Continuous Improvement vs Top Sports People
As an ex sports person (I’m now a has been!) I remember jumping in the pool at 18 and not being able to swim two lengths. At the time my aim was to be a decent triathlete, I asked my squad coach how long it would take to get my 1500 meter time down under 23 minutes in the pool. The coach was a nice guy and also trained the commonwealth games swimmers, bizarre I asked given at that point I couldn’t even swim two lengths. Anyway, the coach told me probably 3-5 years, so I set a goal to break the initial time asap, and nine months later I had broken it then within two years had my time down under 20 minutes.
Follow a proven process…
So how does this relate to CI, well like sport what’s crucial is you have a process you are going to follow that’s a proven process. This can be incredibly simple though, for example in a business it might just be that from this point on we are going to run a whiteboard system that tracks production performance week on week. We will have meetings with the key leads, on a monthly basis set specific stretch goals and do a lessons learned on the prior month. In the pool knew I needed to swim better and that it was going to take some time, once I had a process, action was really all that was needed. In the pool there was actually very little I knew about what would speed me up, I just needed to trust the process effectively following the rules on the whiteboard our coach put up each morning. Most other starters actually never did this, they made up their own rules and or often varied from the process as they felt they “Knew better” etc.
Jack Welch (ex) CEO of GE and the man that really put his money where his mouth was around CI, shares 2 mins and some simple thoughts about CI -and keeping it real…
How about just starting?
Don’t wait until you have qualified people, don’t wait until you have all the answers, start a CI process now ASAP. The number of organisations I see trying to build the perfect CI model, and or a strategy for CI that will at some point (once the function is fully built) bring massive results. Just Start!
One example simple 5 step model for continuous improvement is the DMAIC process, its simple, the steps include:
Define – identify, prioritize and select a specific area / project to work on Measure – key process characteristics, the scope of area you want to enhance Analyse – identify the key causes and process determinants of the current state Improve– change the process in order to optimise performance Control – if/once it works lock in the changes by creating a new process
Okay, sure there are books 1700 pages and longer on DMAIC and related process improvement methodologies. However, like swimming if you follow a simple version and, use it consistently it will actually still work. You already have your subject matter experts SME’s – (Like the swim coach) and they already have the answers. Most people that came to the swim squad were not consistent, they were lazy or focused on too many different things. When one guy came and was worse than anyone he’d seen in ages, but coming back his performance improved much faster than most others.
We all need to improve our game…
Major benefits of a process like DMAIC include the fact that improving key process & or business issues is something every team member is faced with sooner or later. DMAIC’s logical approach can make it a simple backbone of effective process improvement initiatives. Having a simple structure like this is good for high-risk areas, without structured implementation, issues will likely return when people decide to do it their way either because it suits their project or it is the ‘way we have always done it’.
A process like this helps find root causes, so effective countermeasures can be formulated and it is designed for creating sustainable results. (See future article on finding root causes) It also makes improvements part of how we do our business as usual work.
In conclusion like the Triathlete who couldn’t swim but wanted to, often it’s just about about getting on with it not necessarily waiting until you have all the answers. Serious improvement and results are possible in many areas in most organisations and on major projects. I’m continually surprised by what people in organisations put up with. It would be great to hear your stories about teams that took action, and saw change occurring fast through the use of a process that was proven and with consistent effort.
What successes have your teams had?
Why have you had CI failures and what lessons did you learn?
As part of a personal aim to see the performance of any business team continue to increase in different business verticals. I’ve decided to contribute to the area of Expert Knowledge Management EKM.
What does that mean, well given my expertise is not in English, it means this blog will be exploring everything to do with you getting more out of your people. That includes areas where I have been working for the past 10+ years around talent identification & management, the value of internal collaboration on team performance in both sales & productivity/output based environments, performance management. It also includes areas like how to get value from the use of past cultural transformation, sales & L&D programs that may have worked in some but not all pockets of the business.
A clear distinction to make up front is that this does not mean the team have to work harder, probably teams do however need to start thinking differently and with more focus on collaboration, performance, strategy, innovation and what it is their best people internally are doing already.
Expert Knowledge Management EKM is a subject few organizations even understand let alone use.
A major part of this blog will be about exploring what the world’s best organizations are doing in this area to ensure that when the markets are falling faster than ever and the “World” is in trouble you have solutions in order to replicate what is best practice not from another country but in many cases within your own organisation.
We will also be looking at how interventions occur in the worlds largest organisations around Human Resources, Talent Identification, Performance Management, Human Performance, Change Management and other related areas.
If you have other questions on these topics that are not answered here, a good research resources can be found at www.hunterdean.com.