Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement

by Tanmay Vora on November 16, 2009

Qualitytweet_6Welcome to the sixth post in this 12-part series on QUALITY, titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first five 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”

#QUALITYtweet The first step of your

process improvement journey is to

know what really needs improvement

In modern day sports, players and their coaches have sophisticated facilities to learn from recorded versions of the game with some great analytical tools. When reviewing these recorded versions with the team, an important job of a coach is to tell the player:

  • What is going right? How can we consolidate that?
  • What can be improved further? How will it help the game?
  • What needs to change?

Process improvement is all about improving your game with a thoughtful consideration to critical aspects of business.

You can do a lot of improvement in non-critical areas (and feel good about it). Just because you are improving something does not mean you are improving the right thing. The key to success of any improvement initiative is to pick the right areas. To get driven by operational nitty-gritty is one of the biggest mistakes most improvement managers commit. Process improvement can become an important business enabler provided all improvement initiatives are business oriented.

Do a quick reality check by answering following critical questions to gauge return-on-investment of process improvement initiative:

1) If a particular area of operations is improved, will it have a direct impact on customer’s satisfaction level or customer’s experience? (Focus: External Value)

2) Does the improvement in a particular area directly improve the productivity of team and enable them to execute faster? (Focus: Productivity)

3) Does improvement in a particular area directly have impact on revenues and business? (Focus: Revenue)

4) Does improvement in a particular area make it easier for people to generate qualitative outcomes and improved job satisfaction? (Focus: Internal Value)

How do you find out what “really” needs improvements? The answer is – by collaborating. You can never identify broader improvement areas by isolating yourself in a comfortable cabin. You have to actively collaborate with the following stakeholders:

1)      Customers : In a customer-centric process culture, feedback from customers are carefully assessed to identify customer’s expectations on what can be improved. Your customer can be your strongest ally in improvement journey. Seek feedback.

2)      Business Development Folks: They are the ones who have maximum face time with customers. These could be project managers, account managers or client relationship managers. They can give improvement areas that directly map with business.

3)     Middle managers and team: They are people on floor who get things done. They are best candidates to give suggestions on what can be improved operationally to deliver quality upfront and improve productivity.

The famous 80:20 rule applies to process improvement initiative as well. 80% of improvement happens by focusing on continuous identification of 20% improvement areas. It helps to adopt a clinical approach in identifying the 20% that really matters – yes, that much (20%) does make that much (80%) of a difference!

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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