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Continual Improvement

Continual improvement of the organization's overall performance should be a permanent objective of the organization.

Continual improvement should lead a company to enhance performance, productivity, and profits, as well as customer and stakeholder satisfaction on an ongoing basis. Continual improvement requires management to support innovation and excellence.

We can look to continual improvement and monitoring and measurement for performance in three areas: (1) quality management system, (2) conformity of product/service requirements, and (3) customer satisfaction. Pilot's Three-Step Process: Identify, Insure, Improve™ can be used in this process. Step One is to identify your current performance tied to quality management, reviewing your strategic planning initiatives. Establish a need and then get the commitment to establish objectives. Ensure that you have the research or analysis correct in order to proceed to establish projects or programs to support the objectives. An important technique for improving a process is to look at value analysis. Is there value added or nonvalue added by the activities performed? It is strategic to put in place key process improvement strategies that are measureable, and tied to your financials to see the value to the success of the organization's profitability.

Many organizations put in place key performance indicators (KPIs); however, are they doing this to show measurement for receiving their ISO registration or are they setting objectives to improve process improvements? Has the organization really improved its processes? What gets measured gets done.

Step Two is to insure. Active participation and buy-in from all parties tied with the organization's change is needed to achieve continual improvement of the organization's performance. It is important to recognize what activities are being performed by whom, how, and when.

When proper controls and measurement are in place, analysis and trending can be accurately done, showing where improvement needs to be focused now and in the future.

As continual improvement is an ongoing process for the company, it is important to have structure in place to manage this process. The setting of objectives throughout the organization is important for improvement and management of what is taking place at the organization. I have been in many companies where managers are working on many projects, and there is not one location that managers can go to view what is being worked on by whom.

In order for top management to know what is going on in their organization, they need to understand what each process area is working on; otherwise, people are just being busy and not concentrating on meeting the main goals of the company. The management of workloads can be automated to a central location working with your IT department.

One of the measurements of the performance of the quality management system is in Step Three, improvement that reviews the monitoring of customer's perception of whether the organization has met customer requirements, which is the measurement of customer satisfaction. This can be done through customer surveys, customer data, repeat business or lost business analysis, warranty claims, or dealer reports, to name a few methods.

For an understanding of how the company's management system is improving or not, this can be managed by monitoring and measuring processes and products, as well as verified through the internal audit program. The organization needs to have trained competent auditors who are objective and impartial about the area they are auditing to provide reporting on meeting management system criteria. Any nonconformances to the management system or noncompliance with legal requirements need to be processed through your nonconformance process. Having one process to handle all nonconformances, assists in understanding all the deficiencies and the priorities required to each. The nonconformances can be categorized for easy evaluation.

Management responsible for the area being found to have noncon- formance/noncompliance is to ensure that root causes are evaluated and that necessary corrections or corrective actions are taken without any undue delay. Records of the monitoring, measurement, and audits need to be maintained.


Focus: Quality – Customer

1 In what areas have you improved the effectiveness of your management system in the last three months, six months, and year?

2 How do you as a manager encourage continual improvement within the organization?

3 Who within your organization is responsible for continual improvement?

4 Has the organization made the continual improvement of products, processes, and systems an objective for every individual in the organization?

5 What tools are used to assist in continual improvement (policy statement, objectives and targets, Six Sigma, Lean, SWOT analysis, brainstorming, storyboarding, value analysis, trend analysis, change management, project management, internal and third-party audits, corrective and preventive action, root cause analysis, management reviews)?

6 How does the organization know if it is improving? Is work being done per improvement plan (objectives/targets)? Does the organization measure its improvements? Is it testing solutions? Does it make adjustments going forward?

a. Does the organization have higher customer satisfaction?

b. Has the organization increased productivity?

c. Are people spending less time and incurring fewer costs to perform activities?

d. Are managers able to expand organizational capabilities?

e. Has the organization reduced “re” in quality – rework, reschedule, resubmit?

7 How does management ensure that the program or project worked on for continual improvement is rolled into the management system (operational controls in place, training provided, competent personnel, etc.)?

8 How do you recognize and acknowledge improvements?

9 How will newly defined objectives support the company's guiding principles?

10 What have your internal and third-party audits assisted in improving? Is your organization continuing to learn more about its processes and its management system?

11 How is change management viewed at your organization? Is the management system improvement looked at as building a stronger, successful company by your employees? (Why do most people resist change?)

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