Tips for Creating and Maintaining Processes

Standard processes are fundamental in a continuous improvement environment.  They help us to remove waste and address issues more effectively. Focus on process is one of the foundational principles for Organizational Excellence as defined by the Shingo Institute. Creating and maintaining processes takes deliberate focus and commitment. Here are some tips to guide you as you approach processes in your work.

P – Perfectly Designed to Produce its Outcome

You have probably heard this saying before, but it is worth repeating. “A process is perfectly designed to produce its outcome.” If the outcome is not what is desired, the process needs to change.

R – Respect Every Individual

When looking at our processes, we need to be respectful of the individuals doing the work. There are many things to consider when ensuring that a process is respectful to people. First, are you asking someone to do something that they are physically unable to do or that might be unsafe for them, like asking a short person to grab something heavy off a high shelf? Another consideration might be whether the task is meaningful to the process, or if it can be done in a different way. I distinctly remember a former colleague of mine explaining a trivial task as a “cat job” or “dog job” because only animals should be asked to do such work. The example he gave was that in a factory he once visited a person’s job was to fold up long paper (similar to receipt tape from a cash register) as it came out of the machine. This was not a great use of that person’s talents or time. Whenever possible make sure that steps in the process are meaningful and utilize people’s talents and strengths.

O – Observation is Key

Once a process has been determined, it is important to observe the process to make sure it is working in the way that was intended. Observation is an important part of the training and sustaining process.  Implementing process observation, or kamishibai, can help you to sustain improvements and ensure that the standards created are delivering on the expected outcomes.  You may even find that the more you observe your staff the better they become at using and following the standards that are in place, making it easier for the team to continuously improve the work.

C – Connect Upstream and Downstream

A process is very rarely secluded from other processes. When creating a process, it is important to think about what happens both upstream and downstream of the process. Consider how materials, documents, or people come into the process you are working on and what is needed down the line to ensure the system is working together to produce the desired result.

E – Error Proofing is the Goal

The goal of a process is to move materials or people through with zero defects. To ensure quality, it is necessary to error proof the process as much as possible. Set the steps in the process in a way that makes it difficult, or impossible, to do it wrong. Examples of error proofing might be a template with predetermined options or using outlines to make it visual where items go so that they can easily be found and used the next time.

S – Standard Work is a Necessity

Standard work is vital. Document the process making sure to include the main process steps, details about the steps, and the why behind each step. This documentation is valuable in training, determining the root cause of a defect, and improving the process. The documented standard work will also help when spreading the process to another area as well as during process observation.

S – Study and Adjust is Key

In a continuous improvement culture processes should be in a continuous PDSA cycle. It is easy to get distracted and move on to the next problem or improvement after a process change has been implemented. Resist the urge to plan, do, plan, do and remember to study the process and adjust when necessary.

Focusing on process is a fundamental part of the journey to organizational excellence and is imperative to continuous improvement. When creating or improving a process make sure to keep these things in mind.

What are things that you have learned about creating and maintaining processes?


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