Quality #14: Process Improvement and 3E’s

by Tanmay Vora on January 25, 2010

The next installment in the QUALITYtweet series is: Process Improvement and 3E’s

Here are the first thirteen posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”
  6. Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement
  7. Quality #7: Productivity and Quality
  8. Quality #8: Best Practices are Contextual
  9. Quality #9: Quality of Relationship and Communication
  10. Quality #10: Inspection can be a waste if…
  11. Quality #11: Driving Change Through Leadership
  12. Quality #12: Middle Management and Quality Culture
  13. Quality #13: Reviews can be fun (if done right)

#QUALITYtweet Lack of 3E’s can be your biggest road blocks

in improvement journey. Empowerment, Education,

and Empathy

There are many reasons why a lot of improvement initiatives fail. However, top three reasons for most of the failures are:

1)      Lack of Empowerment

2)      Lack of Education and Training

3)      Lack of Empathy

Lets carefully look at each one of these culprits, and what you can do about it:

Empowerment

All improvement starts from the top. Most of the top leaders would claim that they want their processes to improve and efficiencies to increase. However, their best intentions to improve processes do not translate into actual commitment to improve. They assign responsibility of process improvement to a group but tend to bypass the processes themselves for short-term benefits. Worst yet, they assign responsibility of process improvement to a team and then reallocate the same team when faced with an immediate need of those resources. Leaders set a wrong precedence when they do this, and often create a culture where bypassing processes is considered normal. Lack of empowerment also means that people are not allowed to make mistakes. As a consequence, people responsible for or interested in process improvement initiative soon lose interest and move on and organization looses substantial time and effort already spent so far.

What can you do about it?

  • Map your intentions with your actions on process improvement.
  • Assign ownership and divert all communication related to improvement at one point.
  • Set expectations clear on goals and purpose of process improvement initiative.
  • Welcome innovation and let your improvement team make mistakes.
  • Announce your process improvement goals and track the progress.
  • Announce the results as well.
  • Periodically review improvement efforts and results.

Education

Either most people are not aware of the best practices or they don’t know how to apply those practices in given situations. Technology folks are deep into technology, but they don’t necessarily go deep into processes and practices. This is where continuous education is required. People need to be trained on processes and best way to implement them. When people don’t know the process, no wonder they will not use it optimally.

What can you do about it?

  • Set up a process training calendar throughout the year.
  • Ensure that all new processes, practices are propagated across the organization.
  • Set up a process advisory function for current/new projects.
  • Create best practices group and empower them to explore/share their expertise.
  • Have right knowledge management tools that help you in spreading process awareness.

Empathy

Process improvement can only be effective when process has an “empathy” element into it. If applied rigidly, processes can become your biggest barrier in solving your customer’s immediate problems. Empathy means accepting that processes may still not be able to solve all your/your customer’s problems. Empathy also means accepting that processes cannot be rigidly applied to all situations.

What can you do about it?

  • Understand the situation in which processes are applied.
  • Understand the larger context.
  • Assess if processes can be applied in an “as-is” state or would it need some tweaking.
  • Learn from unique situations and improve processes to include those scenarios.

As a first step to your process improvement journey, even if you focus on these Three E’s, your journey will become much easier and fun

Tanmay VoraTanmay is a Software Quality Management professional based out of India. He hosts QAspire Blog and tweets as @tnvora. He is also an author of the book #QUALITYtweet – 140 Bite-Sized Ideas to Deliver Quality in Every Project
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