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Performance improvement efforts can be best achieved when organizational policy supports it. It's often the manager's job to organization and direct efforts to improve quality and productivity. Using a systematic approach ensures that limited resources are directed where improvement is going to be valued the most.

James & Associates utilizes a systematic approach that involves three basic steps:

Develop a MODEL of the current process.
Take some MEASURES to determine if there is opportunity to improve.
Develop and implement METHODS of performance improvement.

The models, measures and methods approach to performance improvement works well on a project basis (in an individual or team environment).


MODELS

Performance improvment efforts begin with a clear understanding of the process or organization being examined. This model:

identifies inputs and primary outputs (products/services),
identifies customers and suppliers,
defines and documents the process,
defines customer and supplier expectations.

A process or organizational model gives you the framework to evaluate existing performance and identify opportunities for improvement. Without this model, improvement efforts can be misdirected resulting in lost time, money and personnel resources. After all, quality and productivity may be staring you right in the face but you would never know it without a process or organizational model.

This model usually takes the form of an organization map and/or a cross-functional work flow diagram (see examples).


MEASURES

The next step is to determine how well customer and supplier expectations are being met (as defined by your process model). This is done through formal measurement and by looking at other obvious performance cues. The purpose of this evaluation is to identify opportunities for improvement. Then the most valuable opportunities can be addressed with appropriate methods of improvement.

In order to measure a process you need to design the measurement system and collect the data. Then you can compare existing performance to expected performance and determine the value of closing the gap between the two; summarizing your findings in an Improvement Value Summary Table (see example). Packaging the results (i.e., converting the data into useful information through the use of charts & graphs) will help you further pinpoint the source of the performance improvement opportunity.


METHODS

The last step is to develop and implement performance improvement methods that will capitalize on your identified opportunities. There are many tools and techniques available and selecting the correct one(s) is by no means an easy task. What works well in one situation (or work group) might not work well in another. You need a systematic framework to sort through all of the options.

systematic framework used by James & Associates

James & Associates uses an Issue/Opportunity Summary to document ideas and recommendations for improving a process (see example).

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