Over the past months, we’ve experienced a strange lesson learned and a word of caution to pass on.
We spent a lot of time working towards a high performance culture of continuous improvement. As part of this, we launched improvements using the “A3” format. In a nutshell, the A3 format states any improvement project should be done on an A3/11X17 pc of paper divided into 4 quadrants – business case, current state, future state, and actions needed to reach the future state. If it’s too big for an A3 size paper, it’s too big to tackle as one improvement project.
When we started out, we focused on getting people to buy in to the concept of creating A3’s for any improvement, no matter how big or small the benefit. This proved to be a great launch because we got a lot of people to start improvements and focus on any improvement. We were flooded with ideas.
Where we stumbled a little was that we started seeing so many improvements being launched that we were sucking up resources very quickly. In response, we made a “vetting” process to make sure that the right improvements were being worked on first. By “right”, I mean the ones with the biggest benefit to The Morey Corp. We thought this would be a good way to prioritize improvements so that we were not scattered all over the company trying to do too many improvements at once. The unexpected by-product of this was that the perspective of the employees changed to one of “you won’t get resources for any improvement you launch unless it means a big gain for the company”. By default, the well of improvement ideas ran dry very quickly. Why spend time trying to promote and implement an improvement, if you don’t think you will get resources for it?
I don’t feel we were trying to push an agenda of “only big dollar improvements will be accepted,” but that is what happened.
Now, we are working to go back to where we were a year ago to re-promote the concept that we don’t want home runs. Walks, singles and doubles win ball games the vast majority of the time. We want small, incremental changes that decrease costs and eliminate waste and are setting up systems to accommodate these “quick wins.” These will always add up to more savings by the end of the year than one or two monster changes. It could be that five to seven small changes that fall under the same umbrella end up building to a huge savings at the end of the year. If you were to try and not do five to seven small individual changes and instead one big change that covers them all, the chances are far less likely that you’d be finished and complete by the end of the year.
David Seifrid is manager of planning and customer support at The Morey Corp.