Inbound Logistics recently published a short article on How to Deploy a Successful Improvement Program that chronicled the advice of APL Logistics’, who saved 30M through continuous improvement initiatives, foremast Lean/Six Sigma/JDI professional that had some really good advice.
To summarize, the article outlined a five-step method for deploying a successful improvement program.
- Choose One Quality Discipline and Focus On It
- Choose And Deploy Your Preferred Training Model
- Select the Right Members For Your Project Teams
- Choose the Right First Projects
- Continuously Improve Your Odds of Program Success
Two of these tips in particularly are especially poignant. In particular, tip #1 and tip #4. The secret to success is focus, focus, focus. Don’t try to adopt too many initiatives at once and don’t try to take on too many projects at once. Just like too many cooks spoil the broth, too many initiatives spoil the effort.
Lean projects, like any other type of improvement project, take effort to accomplish, and there is only so much effort that can be applied to any project. Thus, undertaking multiple types of improvement initiatives splits the effort that can be applied to each, and reduces the chances of success.
Similarly, undertaking multiple projects simultaneously reduces the effort that can be applied to each project, and extends the amount of time required to complete it. If a project takes too long, the chances of it being cancelled before it is completed increase, and, thus, the chances of failure.
When a new effort is undertaken, success often depends on a quick win, and a quick win depends on selecting a project that can be completed in the effort available — and focussing all of the effort available to make it a success. This means that the last thing you should do is start a second effort half-way through the first in an attempt to duplicate a success you do not yet have. Get one success, then start another project. Get another success, start a third project. Once you have a pattern of success under your belt, you’ll get more support (in the way of effort available) and then you can start multiple projects. Until then, get lean with your lean initiative.