When a leader struggles to achieve the results, they’re accountable for, they frequently make mistakes selecting and implementing a process improvement system. And selecting the wrong system can negatively impact the leader’s ability to be successful.

In this article, I’m going to share with you the top 4 mistakes leaders make when selecting and implementing a process improvement system, and practical and easy to implement solutions to overcome them.

Over the past 30 years, I’ve assisted hundreds of leaders from all types of organizations successfully implement a process improvement system that resulted in the leader being able to quickly improve performance. And when helping these leaders, regardless of their position or industry, there are four common mistakes they all make.

#1 – Not Creating Strategy Scorecard

The first mistake leaders make is not creating a scorecard to document in writing the key outcomes the leader is accountable for achieving. Studies have repeatedly shown less than 10 percent of employees know their leaders’ top goals.

Just because you the leader knows the top goals and associated performance measures and target levels, does not mean everyone else on your team does. Imagine if you have 10 direct reports, and only one of the 10 knows the key outcomes or goals your accountable for – There is no way you are going to be successful as a leader?

By NOT creating a scorecard, that clearly identifies and communicates to your team in writing, the key outcomes, you’re accountable for, always results in:

  • Miss alignment and wasting of your limited resources – why because everyone is working on what they believe are the key outcomes.
  • And because you have not documented or track the outcomes your accountable for, there is no reason to implement a process improvement system – no measure, no target, no gap, no worries.
  • And of course, this results in you not being successful as a leader by not achieving the results your boss is holding you accountable for achieving.

The solution is creating a one page, strategy scorecard that includes a balanced set of strategic goals, objectives, performance measures, target levels and actions you are required to achieve.

With your strategy scorecard completed, next is to conduct monthly scorecard meetings with your team. The purpose of these meetings is to review performance to required target levels, celebrate your teams’ successes, and to identify performance gaps so a team can be formed to improve performance back above target levels.

Click here if you would like to learn more how to create a one-page strategy scorecard where I walk you through a simple three step system.

#2 – Selecting The Wrong Process Improvement System

The second mistake leaders make IS selecting the WRONG process improvement system. Too often, leaders and members of their team chase “certification” levels, such as becoming a black belt in six sigma process improvement methodology.

Not because they believe it is the most cost effective, the most efficient method, or the system members of their team will want to implement to quickly improving performance and achieve the results their accountable for. Instead, they obtain the certification because they believe it will be a great addition to their resume for future job promotions.

The biggest disadvantage of implementing both lean and six sigma PI systems, is the steps and techniques they require simply are not necessary for 99 percent of the situations where you need to close performance gaps and improve performance. It’s like investing 20 thousand dollars to save one dollar.

  • They require a significant amount of training – anywhere from 2 to 7 days of off-site.
  • They cost hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars per person to attend the training.
  • The steps are very rigid and don’t allow for easy customization depending on the performance improvement gap you are trying to close.
  • And because you team members know this, it’s very difficult and sometimes even impossible to convince your team to want to learn and implement these systems.

The solution is implementing a simple, but highly effective process improvement system – like our three step, Rapid Process Improvement, or RPI system. And because it’s easy to learn, implement, requires minimal time and resources, and will quickly and predictably improve the outcomes your accountable for, it’s not an issue to convince your team to implement the system.

RPI Step 1 – Identify Key Root Causes

Steps 1 is where you will easily Identify Why, or the key root causes as to WHY performance is below required target levels.

And to identify the WHYS, you are going to look at past events where you did not meet required target levels and identify the WHY’s by the 4WsWHO did not, WHAT did not, WHERE did you not, and WHEN did you not meet required target levels. To be successful as a leader you do not want to skip this step. It is the most critical step of any process improvement system.

RPI Step 2 – Identify Solutions

Step 2 you and your team are going to identify and implement solutions you believe will overcome each of the key root causes identified in step 1. By identifying targeted solutions that are laser focused on WHO did not, WHAT did not, WHERE did you not, and WHEN did you not meet required target levels – you will be shocked how quickly you can improve performance and with minimal time and resources.

RPI Step 3 – Monitor & Evaluate Results

Step 3 is where your team will monitor and evaluate the performance measure that were below target level to see if the solutions implemented improved performance. You will also get feedback from your team how to improve and modify as necessary the solutions implemented.

Click here if you would like to learn more about our three step Rapid Process Improvement system, and how it can help you quickly achieve the results you’re accountable for.

#3 – Not Using The Process Improvement System

The third mistake leaders make is NOT require using the process improvement system you’ve selected when performance is below target levels. I see this all the time. A leader invested thousands of dollars sending their team to learn a process improvement system, yet the leader does not require its use when performance is below target levels.

The negative organizational impact is allowing the critical performance outcome to continue to be below target levels. And the negative impact on you the leader, is feeling frustrated and stressed not being able to achieve the required target levels your boss requires of you.

The solution is easy. As the leader, establish a criteria when your process improvement system is required to be used. An example of this this might be when three consecutive months of results are below target levels, or when YTD performance is below target levels.

What you do not want to do is leave it up the leader. Be consistent and require the use of the process improvement system to get performance back above target levels quickly.

#4 – Not Eliminating Fear

Not eliminating fear among your team how the results of your process improvement efforts will be used. This is a huge mistake and one you want to avoid because you may not ever recover from it. Almost every time a PI team is initiated, the results often reveal significant variations in performance and can often identify a team or an individual not performing as expected.

If your team believe the PI process will be used to punish or fire individuals, no one will be willing to participate or share their results in the future. The solution is simple but sometimes hard to do as a leader.

  • The easy thing to do is punish or fire members of the team.
  • The best thing to do is pause, set back, and look at the “system” and look for opportunities to inform, educate, and adjust your processes as necessary to improve performance.

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David Harrawood, President
Baldrige Group Consulting

Baldrige Group Strategic Planning System
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