Matt's Articles

Checking on Progress

Continuing with the topic of making the mission actionable, the next area of focus is driving initiatives. There are some considerations that I recommend to the Continuous Improvement (CI) practitioner.

1. Develop a strong business case that aligns with the target in the mission.
2. Scope the initiative for success.
3. Assign a dedicated resource to run the program.
4. Establish checks that allow you and your peers to gauge progress.

These considerations protect against common failures that I observe in driving initiatives. I’ll provide detail on each separately…

A business case is required for any activity with multiple departments collaborating on a single problem for more than a few months. Without the urgency developed in a good business case, departments lose focus and get side tracked on competing programs. A well written business case will unify the team around a problem or opportunity that is impactful to the organization’s mission. Only opportunities with a greater impact should supersede the initiative.

The top-level targets in achieving the mission should be set with a 3 to 5 year vision in mind. These are big goals. Cascading down from these targets into initiatives requires that we narrow the scope into something that is achievable within a year. Often this does not happen, initiatives are slow to start, struggle to gain traction, wander aimlessly, and don’t achieve their intended objective. Loose scopes are a leading cause of failed projects. I coach my teams to start narrow and broaden as required. As a team sees progress they are energized and able to drive a greater amount of change.

The team members assigned to the initiative all have day jobs. Daily or weekly progress must be made for the team to maintain the initiative as a priority compared to their many routine responsibilities. An accountable person with a formalized amount of time assigned for improvement will ensure progress is made. When it comes to driving initiatives, I recommend people that are experienced in applying Lean Six Sigma. This doesn’t always need to be the case, but a person trained and experienced in formal project management or change management will increase the likelihood of success.

Just as you wouldn’t ship parts off of an assembly line without first checking quality, organizations should not allow initiatives to run for weeks and months without checking progress. The more frequent the check the more effective the team will be at escalating issues, course correcting, and making positive progress. Checks that are infrequent and informal fail to create urgency. Teams should establish measures that they can monitor for impact over time and Gantt charts that can be used to gauge progress on time-based goals. If the team fails to meet timelines and measurable targets or if the initiative is “done” but the larger organizational measure is unmoved, the organization knows that the initiative needs to be revised. The sooner this comes to light the more flexible and nimble the organization will be in achieving critical targets. Following the methods that I have described above is how to Act on the Mission.