The Psychology of Quality and More
Process management involves the management of all aspects of a process, as described above. Basic actions may include:
Taking the above descriptions into account, broad actions to improve processes may include:
In addition to validation activities, processes can be made more reliable by designing them for mistake-proofing and robustness.
Mistake-proofing (also called Poka-Yoke) involves designing the process so that it cannot be done wrongly. For example, a location peg may have a lug put on it, to prevent it being inserted the wrong way around, thus:
Other mistake-proofing examples include:
Making a process robust involves using risk management techniques to identify key causes of variation that cannot be eliminated, and taking measures to prevent them from upsetting the overall running of the process. This typically involves building redundancy into the process, and requires a balancing of costs against potential damage. Robustness examples include:
Another approach to improving processes is through Benchmarking, where the process is compared with a similar process, either in another part of the company or in another company, which is recognized as being superior.
Benchmarking against external companies processes may be done as a collaborative exercise, for example where several companies work together, sharing information on common key processes. Competitive benchmarking involves analysis of available information about a competing company (for example, financial performance or reliability levels). This data is then used as a goal for your own improvement efforts.
The ideal process against which to benchmark process is one recognized as being 'best in industry'. In practice, the best may not be known, or information on it may be unavailable. In practice, the best processes against which to benchmark are those where sufficient information is available to allow your own processes to be significantly improved.
When processes are significantly out of date, making incremental improvements may not enough and a more radical approach is required. Business Process Re-engineering (or BPR) implies going back to first principles and building processes from the ground up, starting with company goals and customer requirements and using whatever technology and methods are available to create an optimally effective and efficient business system.
BPR can run into problems where the significant change causes an equally significant reaction from the people involved, and results in the current cultural 'immune system' trying to reject the changes. To make BPR successful, as much if not more attention must be paid to the people as is paid to the processes, reassuring their fears and retraining them to work in the new organization.
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