Productivity & Quality
How to Bring Increase to Both Simultaniously...
Adopting a quality management system should be the strategic decision of every organization. Varying needs, particular objectives, the products provided, the processes employed and the size and structure of the organization influences the design and implementation of an organization’s quality management system. For an organization to function effectively, it has to identify and manage numerous linked activities. An activity using resources, and managed in order to enable the transformation of inputs into outputs, can be considered as a process. Often the output from one process directly forms the input to the next. The application of a system of processes within an organization, together with the identification and interactions of these processes, and their management, can be referred to as the “process approach”.
An advantage of the process approach is the ongoing control that it provides over the linkage between the individual processes within the system of processes, as well as over their combination and interaction. When used within a quality management system, such an approach emphasizes the importance of:
| Understanding & Meeting Requirements,
The Need To Consider Processes In Terms Of Added Value,
Obtaining Results Of Process Performance And Effectiveness, and
Continual Improvement Of Processes Based On Objective Measurement
Develop An Effective Corrective And Preventive Action System…
The correct application of a corrective and preventive action system is one of the opportunities organizations most often overlook. Revitalizing such a system will go a long way toward driving continual improvement cycles. The first action organizations can take to get the most out of their corrective and preventive action systems is to actively investigate the root causes of problems. And this means uncovering the real root causes, not simply restating the symptoms. True root cause investigation requires discipline, time and analytical effort, all of which are in short supply in most organizations. Personnel may not even understand what the term "root cause" means.
Two measures can get organizations moving in the right direction in this regard. The first is to reject responses that don't indicate that true root cause analysis has taken place. If a response seems suspect, it probably is. Root cause responses that might indicate a lack of analysis include "management oversight," "employee error," "failure to follow procedure" and "unknown." These responses are not guarantees that root cause analysis was neglected, but they are reasonably significant hints. Remember to be diplomatic when sending corrective or preventive actions back to the responsible parties. Second, training may be required to encourage better root cause investigation. One option is to hold a short course in root cause analysis and problem solving.
| What exactly is a root cause?
What are the techniques for determining root causes?
What are typical steps for problem solving?
What analytical tools are appropriate at each stage of problem solving?
How do you conduct an effective meeting?
How do you manage team dynamics in a problem-solving environment?<
The scope of the corrective and preventive action system should also be reviewed. Is your organization applying the system as broadly as possible? There may be opportunities left unexploited. Make sure that the following categories are at least considered within your system:
| Late deliveries
Internal audit findings
Supplier and subcontractor problems
Get Personnel At All Levels Involved In Initiating Improvements…
People are what distinguish average organizations from great ones. The difference is not so much in the caliber of personnel, but in the degree to which the personnel are used to their full potential. One way of exploiting the full range of human creativity and resourcefulness is to give personnel a voice in recommending improvements. This can be achieved in a number of ways, but one of the most typical is through a suggestion system.
Suggestion systems have almost become clichéd by now. They have come and gone (and come again) in most organizations, and they are known by a dizzying array of names and acronyms. However, the basic structure of such a system is simple:
| Provides A Means For Personnel To Propose Improvements (Typically A Form)
Evaluates The Inputs & Outputs Related to Measurable Performance Standards
Implements The Practical Ideas & Improvements After Gaining Group Concensus
Unfortunately, suggestion systems normally have a useful lifespan of two years or less because employees start getting the notion that their ideas aren't quite as valued by the organization as they had originally believed.
A List Of Key Factors…
The Difference Between A System That Works Over The Long Haul & A System That Is Doomed To Failure:
Ask personnel to focus on issues from the standpoint of what the customer (internal or external) is concerned about. Focusing on the customer will help keep inputs from straying too far into the realm of the absurd.
Acknowledge all input--even the crazy ideas. Acknowledgement doesn't have to be anything more elaborate than saying: "Hey, we got your suggestion. Thanks a lot. Unfortunately, cost and practicality won't allow us to put shag carpeting in the production area as you've suggested, but we appreciate the idea. Keep the ideas flowing." Personnel usually don't mind having their ideas turned down if there's a reason for it. Nobody, however, likes his or her ideas to disappear into a black hole.
Clearly define the scope of the system. Successful suggestion systems are usually fairly narrow in scope: ideas, problems or potential problems related to an employee's job, processes, equipment or tools that can eventually affect the customer. This means that personnel problems, policy disagreements, rumors, grievances, philosophical issues and the like are not considered. While these can be important issues, they aren't appropriate for a suggestion system.
Make the system simple. The form shouldn't be more than half a page long or have more than four spaces (name, date, department, idea/problem). If the issue is more complicated, invite personnel to attach whatever additional information is necessary, but don't impose a lot of bureaucracy on the user at the onset. Don't make the evaluation process complicated either: It usually doesn't take a huge committee of experts to separate the practical ideas from the impractical.
Keep first-line supervisors involved. Supervisors must believe that they are part of the system instead of being circumvented by it. This can be achieved by simply making the appropriate supervisor the first point of contact with an idea. The supervisor can then prescreen the suggestions for inappropriate issues and will feel involved in the program. Supervisors will subconsciously (or consciously) kill the system if they feel it compromises their ability to supervise or trumps their authority.
When the issue requires problem solving, get the employee involved in the solution. Often, the person who submitted it knows the most about the problem and its variables. Employees are also the most affected by the issue at hand, so they're highly motivated to get results. Be careful, though, about involving employees who aren't comfortable with being involved or trained in the required methods and tools. That's not to say everyone has to have a Ph.D. in problem solving, but they certainly need to understand what brainstorming is before they're asked to participate in such a session.
Keep personnel apprised of the progress of their ideas' implementation. Many ideas and solutions are long-term in nature. Some might even require capital expenditures. In most cases, people don't mind waiting for results as long as they know that progress is being made and the issue hasn't been dropped.
Inform management about the big successes. If the system isn't supported at the top, it won't matter who else cares about it. The best way to keep top management's support is to show them the benefits. The more dramatically and frequently this is done, the better.
Offer sincere recognition for the implemented ideas. Recognition doesn't mean cash and prizes; it simply means a genuine and public word of thanks from someone representing upper management. Obviously, the higher the level of management providing the validation, the more effect the thanks will have. One very effective method is to hold a special recognition luncheon for everyone and then recognize personnel in front of the group. However, don't go down the road of offering cash and prizes unless the organization is prepared to deal with the disgruntled employee who believes his or her wonderful idea was worth at least as much as that of the other employee who received a much bigger prize. With cash and prizes as incentives, the system might quickly become an unmanageable monster.
Periodically remind everyone that the system exists. At least once a year, everyone should be retrained on the scope and procedures of the suggestion system. People have short memories, and there are always newfangled programs vying for our attention.
When appropriate, link your suggestion system to your corrective and preventive action system. This makes sense because problems that are worth addressing at all are worth addressing in a structured, documented manner. Linking the systems also serves to strengthen both of them because it helps personnel understand how they relate to one another.
Both of these so-called gems--correct use of corrective and preventive actions and getting all levels of personnel involved in initiating improvements--are quite basic, but their simplicity and ease of application make them especially appealing. If both initiatives are implemented, organizations should find that they have a ready source of continual improvement that helps drive success over the long term.
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