Table of contents
Do we need a Continuous Improvement Department?
We post many questions to Social Media channels that fuel great discussions. The question of “should a company have a Continuous ProcessThere are many ways to organize your lean six sigma processe... and Quality Improvement Department/Manager” historically fuels great responses.
Here was the response:
Generally, the response to this question is: Continuous ImprovementContinuous improvement (or Kaizen) is a way to identify oppo... Learn More... (CIContinuous improvement (or Kaizen) is a way to identify oppo... Learn More...) is a “process” rather than a department and there should not be a separate Continuous Improvement Department. The response below is aligned with this school of thought.
“I think of Continuous Improvement as a process rather than a department. It’s less about what department Continuous Improvement is in and more about how it’s lead, staffed, and prioritized. Functional departments are supposed to provide us advantages in skill development, reporting lines, and economies of task scope. This is mostly true for business fundamentals (recurring activities/outputs). But when it comes to the Continuous Improvement process, this is really a set of temporary activities that produce a unique output. To be successful at CI requires more of a project organizational structure that’s cross functional. So, my preference would be for CI projects to be identified as part of company-wide strategic planning. Within that framework projects will be selected. A sponsor and change agents with the appropriate skills and authority will be assigned (members of the Quality Department). The Change Agents then select cross functional team members.”
Our experience has taught us…
My colleagues and I have been a part of or lead several LeanLEAN Definition LEAN is a production method aimed primarily ... Learn More... and/or Six SigmaSix Sigma Definition: Six Sigma is a set of techniques and t... Learn More... implementations. Our experience has taught us: If there is not any management of the CI efforts, they will not sustain. CI is owned by everyone, and all have roles and responsibilities in the CI efforts. The following post by Forrest McCracken does an excellent job describing the role of a CI department:
All members of all departments should be trained in the concepts of CI. Managers and select employees should be trained to a higher levelStatistics level A statistics level is the value of input in... Learn More... to implement CI efforts within their functional area. CI departments should train workers, track and report overall improvement goals and outcomes, and advise senior managers on CI strategy. They should also act as internal consultants to managers at all levels and help increase efficiency and quality of internal and external providers of goods and services. CI cannot be solely operated by one department. CI is a culture and a skill set that must be learned through study and practice by those that it affects the most, namely the lowest level managers and workers. Quality assurance departments should work with CI as a cross functional team and help CI capture trends, validate CI efforts, and identify improvement opportunities when real data flags a real problem. Building a good CI program is not easy but building one that causes more harm than good is quite simple.
What are your thoughts?
What are your thoughts? Should CI be managed as an entity working as internal consultants, teachers, and mentors to distribute Change Agents in all departments? Or should CI be a distributed role throughout the organization; not managed by one entity but managed by each of the functional groups or departments?
Related SSDSI Articles
IS YOUR ORGANIZATION
DEPLOYING LEAN SIX SIGMA?
THEN YOU NEED TO READ "WHY THEY FAIL"
The Author, Kevin Clay, Master Black Belt with over 20 year experience, will show you why 90% of Continuous Improvement Efforts (like Lean and Six Sigma) either Fail within 18 months.
He will show you how to quickly identify the failures and how to avoid them. If you want to build a sustainable continuous improvement culture in your organization, READ THIS BOOK!
Subscribe to our Newsletter, Download the FREE Sample and get a glimpse into the Powerful Book “WHY THEY FAIL”
CI culture is always driven from the top. It cannot grow and sustain if 2-3 people at bottom line are hired to make substantial changes. Yes, there should be a CI department, but not an individual function but a function which will be doing cross-functional projects to achieve the management’s strategic goals.
Manik, Excellent Comment. CI should be in support of every functional area. They should help manage Change Agent’s in every functional area.
Job = Standard work + Improvement. That means “Improvement” is part of manager’s job. Why have a CI department?
My company recently transitioned from distributed to centralized CI and I think it was the right move for us. Our company is very large, and everyone is already busy with day-to-day demands. Having a group dedicated to continuous improvement has really helped to drive things forward. The dedicated CI folks can focus on project management and prioritization. The departmental managers play a supporting role and ensure that day-to-day activities keep going.
Centralized CI can work only when there is buyin from stakeholders and a expectations have been communicated effectively. Even then, they tend to fail. Over time, most centralizecd CI groups end up as “the cops” of the organization. That never end well.
Now a eureopean comment, even I am actulaay in China doing a lean project. In my opinion and experience there is no need for a specific department, BUT somebody in the organisation , who repots LEAN activities to senior management needs to be installed for sure.
Continuous Improvement is a culture and not just a box full of tools and techniques. It is about behavioural change across the organisation with demonstrable commitment from senior management. It should be embraced as such and the notion of having a CI team negates the realisation of the objective. Further, a specialised CI team are seen as an imposition on the rest of the organisation and as such, resistance to change escalates rather quickly!
Boy am I glad I dont work for some of you. We have a dedicated department “Performance Improvement” with excellent facilitators (internal consultants) that assist departments on a daily basis. They train our organization in Lean, Six Sigma, Change Managment concepts and many soft skills (presenting your project A3, Gemba walk and talk etc) Many organizations like ours do not prioritize well and our PI team works with leaders to scope. Our PI team only works with areas that ask they never go in and tell departments hence they are never seen as the bad guys they are seen as needed and valued. This culture is driven from the top. Culture change is hard and our PI team is there assisting to drive organizational change toward continous improvement. So yes a dedicated team works in our organization.
Top management sponsorship + CI Experts governance + Functional Heads buy-in + Front-end people’s desire for improving current state = success
Yes there absolutely needs to be a separate body teaching the importance of improving processes at the process owner level and governing how this gets executed across the organisation to ensure there is a standard logic and transparency into what is happening. Equally important is that a platform is used to give this information to senior and middle managers in real time without having to disturb their staff.
Great comment. Unfortunately, this department has become a silo for policing processes (which will fail quickly) rather than a group of mentors used to propagate continuous improvement in the organization.