In this edition I want to share some thoughts about the governance of improvement actions in the areas of quality and excellence within a company. This topic seems simple at first sight but it leads to many questions and discussions in the daily business.
The principle is simple: The company is responsible for the quality of the goods and services supplied and if the quality is not good enough it has to be improved. The same holds for excellence: if we waist precious time or material we need to improve. Don’t we?
Also for the governance of improvement actions it is important to first set the right priorities. Within every company resources are scarce and therefore choices have to be made, for example between investing in the improvement of existing products or services and investing in the next generation of the product or service. Timely setting the right priorities enables the company to deploy its resources (time and investment) to activities that contribute most to reaching the targets set.
As a consequence, it is important to decide on the priority of an improvement action as early as possible. Nothing is more frustrating for a team than to learn halfway a project that there is no time or money for it or that it is no longer needed because of any other reason.
Next it is important to properly judge if the improvement actions indeed yield the result as intended. Are the changes made really improvements or has something been overlooked that cancels out the intended improvements?
Generally speaking there are two moments during an improvement action when clear attention is needed for judgment of the (intended) outcome: first when improvement plans have been made and execution can start and second when actions have been completed and the improvement result can be supplied to the customer.
Finally, after the improvement action has been completed and all stakeholders are satisfied with its result, it is good to clearly show appreciation for the work done. Let the team know as clearly as possible what the effect has been for the customers and other stakeholders. Also, do not forget to mention within the company who has been involved in the improvement. Clearly showing appreciation is essential for the motivation of the members of an improvement team, not only the current but also future ones.
What does this mean in daily life? Just like for the governance of all other activities within an enterprise it is advisable also for improvement actions to appoint a Sponsor and a Steering committee that can adequately represent management for all three decision moments mentioned. Needless to say that all stakeholders have to be properly represented and the governance needs to include the expertise required. On top, the committee members not only have to be trusted by both management and employees but they also need to have easy access to executive management. In that way effective governance decisions can be made when needed and the organization will understand and accept decisions made, even in case of a rejection of a proposed improvement action.
When an organization grows higher management will often only be involved via a number of steps: a member of executive management can sponsor one or more improvement actions and the other members of those steering committee can each sponsor their own actions, each contributing to the overall result. Ensuring that the relations are clear and recognizable creates a clear escalation path when needed.
Although in every enterprise many other issues have to be considered recognizing the three decision moments of setting priorities, accepting results and showing appreciation for the work done will enable effective governance of improvement actions. Effective governance will support improvement teams to make a clear and recognizable contribution to obtaining targets set, now and in the future.