Process improvement stagnation. Something that has not changed during the pre-to-post COVID world is process improvement project progression or lack thereof. From an FC Lean perspective, we have listened to problems that need to be fixed from our Lean Basics graduates. As we follow-up with these graduates, we get the same answer in various forms, “I haven’t had the chance to look at it since class.” Something similar happens in facilitated process improvement projects.
To ensure a successful experience, FC Lean created a very scripted process and early in that process is the identification of a sponsor. As a Lean Leader, be careful not to skip the sponsor identification step. Sponsors come in all shapes and sizes, in other words, a sponsor can be a front-line supervisor or a service area director (most Lean Leader projects will have middle management sponsorship). The following is the definition and duties of a sponsor that can be shared to avoid stagnation.
Sponsor: a person who has decision making authority over the process/problem under review.
Provide Accountability: create follow-up meetings with the team lead to ensure project’s progression.
Remove Obstacles: ensure team members are attending scheduled meetings and assist during implementation.
Approvals: ask questions and promptly approve team’s suggestion or offer constructive feedback.
To be a sponsor, you must be the approving authority over the process being improved. Additionally, performing just-in-time training for that sponsor, which includes providing accountability and progression for the project, help alleviate obstacles that may hinder the advancement of the project and to be prepared to listen to the suggestions posed by the team and approve them so the project can move forward. Keep in mind that sponsors come in all shapes and sizes, in other words, a sponsor can be a front-line supervisor or a service area director (most Lean Leader projects will have middle management sponsorship). To be a sponsor, you must be the approving authority over the process being improved.
Process improvement thrives or flails depending on the effort and interest of the sponsor. As a facilitator, ensure that the project sponsor is aware of the duties associated with the position to prevent the onset of stagnation.