Rapid Response: How to Identify and Agree on Improvement Ideas

Being able to quickly react and effectively solve IT problems is crucial to achieving business value in today’s rapidly changing global marketplace.

Savvy competitors have embraced Lean problem-solving and improvement methods – which are established and proven – to help organizations enhance the quality, speed, and cost of their products and services by focusing on value while removing waste.

Building on Lean improvement practices such as the kaizen model that grew out of Toyota’s renowned production system, a structured and disciplined approach was developed – the define-measure-analyze-improve-control (DMAIC) improvement model.

Many organizations use DMAIC to implement Lean kaizen events. Specific Lean tools and methods such as voice of customer, value stream mapping, root cause analysis, incremental improvement, and documentation are aligned with various stages of the DMAIC model. Collectively, DMAIC supports the kaizen event’s focus to make tangible and sustainable advancements.

During DMAIC’s improve phase, problem solving incorporates both analytical and creative phases. The following list of progressive workshop activities provides an example set of sequential and facilitated creative thinking approaches:

  • Exercise one: smiley face/sad face. This activity uses a visual flipchart or whiteboard exercise that is designed to elicit from the participants what things in the process are working well (smiley face) and what is not working well (sad face). Following this assessment activity, participants use multi-voting to determine the most problematic issues.
  • Exercise two: brain writing. The output of the first exercise is used as the input for brain writing – a form of silent brainstorming where participants identify the contributing factors for the issues and write them on sticky notes.
  • Exercise three: affinity mapping. The sticky notes from exercise two are grouped by similarities/themes and, subsequently, a problem statement and one key question is created for each grouping.
  • Exercise four: world café. The key questions generated from exercise three are individually designated to a specific table and participants rotate amongst the tables, writing ideas down at each respective table on how to solve or improve its key question. Using multi-voting, the participants narrow the ideas down to the top two or three for each key question.

You can read more about the above in detail in my latest Pink Paper – Rapid Response: How to Identify and Agree on Improvement Ideas

How have you successfully implemented kaizen to improve your organization’s processes?

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