Efficient Management of Continuous Improvement Projects (CIPs)
Many companies are beginning to see a paradigm shift in their business practices. One of the key components of this change is to focus on Continuous Improvement Projects (CIPs).
A CIP is a process by which you continually improve your business. It’s a process of continuous improvement in the workplace, i.e., constantly making changes to your business to make it better, smarter, more efficient, more productive, and more profitable. These improvements can take the form of processes, systems, people, technology, etc.
Continuous Improvement Projects are defined as dedicated team-based processes, typically with different backgrounds or from different departments, working to improve process performance metrics and systems with or without minimal capital investment in a relatively short time, such as a day or several months (See González Aleu, F. & Garza-Reyes, J.A., (2020). Leading Continuous Improvement Projects. New York; Taylor & Francis Group, LLC).
When you are in the midst of a CIP, you want to be thinking about the following questions: How do I know if I’m doing this right? What will my end result look like? What are the best metrics to measure to make sure I’m on the right track? How do I know if I’ve achieved my goals? These are all valid questions, but the first one is key to a successful CIP.
How do you make sure your Continuous Improvement Projects are successful? We’ve been doing them for years, and the key to success is to get them right the first time.
The Goal: What Do You Want?
As part of Continuous Improvement Projects, you need to think through what you want to achieve as a result of your improvements, your Goal. Is it a new product, a new feature, a new product-market fit, a better product-market fit, etc. You also need to decide on a goal that you can measure with a specific time frame.
Once you know what you want to achieve, the rest of the process is about thinking through all of the different elements of the process in order to make sure that you get there in the time you’ve allocated.
You need to have a concrete idea of what you want to achieve. You also need to decide when you want to reach your Goal. You can decide to reach it in three months, six months, one year, two years, etc.
The Plan: Where Do You Want to Go?
You need to plan your improvement processes carefully. You should make sure that you simply don’t have a Goal, but a deadline, and the steps you need to take in order to accomplish your Goal.
You can also request your team members to help you think about the project. Your teammates can give you their opinions, offer suggestions, and help you to focus on the process. You should talk with them regularly to make sure that you are doing everything correctly.
The Tools: How Will You Get There?
The tools you should use in Continuous Improvement Projects should be based on what your team needs to accomplish the tasks at hand. If you’re in a CIP that is focused on reducing costs, you will want to use something like a spreadsheet, a visual tool, or a flowchart.
If you are looking to improve a specific aspect of your business, your CIP will require some sort of analytical tool. That doesn’t mean that you cannot use a tool that is useful for more than just the one task at hand. For example, if you are trying to improve your customer service, you will likely need a survey or feedback tool.
Based on the book of Fernando González Aleu & Jose Arturo Garza-Reyes (See González Aleu, F. & Garza-Reyes, J.A., (2020). Leading Continuous Improvement Projects. New York; Taylor & Francis Group, LLC), there are 4 Types of Continuous Improvement Projects and hence, the set of Tools available for use, including:
- General Quality Improvement Project
- Kaizen Event
- Six Sigma Project
- Lean Six Sigma Project
The Process: What’s Next?
You have your Goal, a deadline and the Tools to implement your CIP, the next question is how do you go about it, what is your Process?
You need to be able to think through all of the details involved with it. When thinking through the details, you should take the time to figure out what the most important aspects of the project are. Make sure that you include the important elements in your project. It will be very easy to get overwhelmed with details.
After this, you can choose the set of Continuous Improvement Tools to use to reach your Goal. Finally, you should also make sure that you can measure your success by evaluating your project.
The Measurement: How Will You Know if You’re Successful?
This is the last step. The measurement is how you will know if you’ve succeeded in your Continuous Improvement Projects. The only way to know is to measure.
The book of Fernando González Aleu & Jose Arturo Garza-Reyes (See González Aleu, F. & Garza-Reyes, J.A., (2020). Leading Continuous Improvement Projects. New York; Taylor & Francis Group, LLC), enumerated 2 performance metrics:
- achieved or exceeded CIP main goal; and
- finished in the time frame proposed
The Lessons: What Did You Learn?
The key takeaways from implementing Continuous Improvement Projects include:
- learned how to measure the effectiveness of the project;
- identified the factors important in Continuous Improvement;
- realized that the process of doing Continuous Improvement is simple and can be done at any time;
- established that a company can implement the Continuous Improvement process; and
- came to understand that for Continuous Improvement happen, the whole organization should work together.