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Mastering Process Improvement: The Art of Measurement and Management

In the ever-evolving world of process improvement, there's a dynamic duo that plays a pivotal role: measuring and managing. Picture this - before you embark on a mission to enhance a process, it's absolutely crucial to ascertain whether it genuinely needs a facelift. But here's the kicker - once you've taken the plunge and intervened, you need to be able to answer a crucial question: Did your actions make a difference? Were the changes a result of your efforts, external factors, or just sheer luck? It's a bit like playing a game of dice, with a 50-50 chance of this year being better than the last, even if you decide to do nothing.

Process Improvement Workflow

So, here's the deal - we need to measure what's happening within our processes. It's been said time and again that if you can't measure it, you can't manage it. But hold on a minute - is it possible to manage something without reducing it to a set of numbers? Can we truly measure everything, including the intangibles like quality, service, design, or culture? I'd argue yes, but then again, I might be a tad biased because I started my journey as an engineer. However, one thing's for sure: if you're not measuring something, you're taking a gamble. You're rolling the dice, hoping everything is fine, until it's not, and by then, the problem might be glaringly evident to even the most measurement-averse person.

The key here is not to wait until it's too late. That's why I'm here to suggest that we get down to brass tacks and identify the critical aspects that need measurement. Once we've got that figured out, we can monitor them closely and fine-tune our approach for optimization. And by optimization, I don't mean pushing everything to the extreme - sometimes, the sweet spot hovers around 80%, not the perfectionistic 100%.

It all begins with scientific management - setting clear goals and meticulously tracking our progress towards those goals. Now, let me level with you. Whenever I hear a company proclaim, "We're undergoing a reorganization," my heart sinks a little. Why? Because I've seen this movie before. It often translates to several years of tumultuous, expensive chaos, with the best talent bidding farewell, and the less desirable elements sticking around, hoping for a golden parachute.

Sure, after the dust settles, things might look different, but are they genuinely better? Some parts might be improved, but others could be worse off. So, instead of rolling the dice with a full-scale reorganization, a more prudent approach is to measure everything rigorously, identify the weak links, and zero in on those areas for improvement. Measure the impact of your efforts and adjust your course accordingly.

In essence, the fundamental question in the realm of mastering process improvement is this: Are you measuring enough? Are there any enigmatic "black holes" in your processes - those elusive elements that seem impossible to measure? If you had to measure them, how would you tackle it? It's time to roll up our sleeves, get analytical, and unlock the true potential of our processes.

Mastering Process Improvement Summary Bullet Points:

  • Before enhancing a process, it's essential to determine if improvement is genuinely needed.

  • Measuring is the compass that guides effective management and decision-making.

  • Don't leave things to chance; measure the elements that matter, even if they aren't easy to quantify.

  • The quest for optimization doesn't always mean maxing out; often, the sweet spot is around 80%.

  • Scientific management is the cornerstone, setting clear goals and tracking progress.

  • Beware of full-scale reorganizations, which can result in costly chaos and mixed results.

  • Instead of a broad overhaul, focus on targeted improvements by measuring everything.

  • Assess your measurement practices and identify any elusive "black holes" in your processes for better results.

About the Author

Chris Shemza, Process Improvement Specialist

Chris Shemza is a seasoned multi-disciplinary project management and process improvement specialist with over 16 years of experience. With his experience as a creative services account executive with a background in agency work, Chris brings a unique blend of creative thinking and technical expertise to the table.

Chris has planned, project managed, and process-improved many custom packaging projects, including all the examples included above. The packaging projects involved international clients from Asia to Europe, graphic design, photography and structural design teams, legal and regulatory reviews, as well as digital, flexographic and offset printing and distribution, for projects encompassing food, entertainment, hospitality, cosmetics and much more.

Throughout his career, Chris has honed a diverse set of skills, encompassing both soft skills and hard skills for effective team leadership and technical abilities, including robotic process automation to drive efficiency and speed at companies such as Petco, West Coast University QuidelOrtho and more. With a track record of successful client retention, Chris is known for handling complex projects and implementing process improvements, particularly in marketing, creative, digital, internet, packaging, and print industries.

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