Control – Phase 5 (of 5) of Lean Six Sigma

There’s excitement in the Improve Phase—the urge to jump to solution is always there —but the Control Phase holds the key to success. The process has been improved, but how do you sustain it? Now that the problem is fixed and solutions are in place, it’s critical to hold on to the gains.

In the Control Phase the team develops a Monitoring Plan to keep an eye on the continued success of the updated process. They also develop a Response Plan in case there is a dip in performance. Who do you call? What should you do if things go south?

Once they’ve got a plan that answers these critical questions, the team hands it off to the Process Owner for ongoing maintenance. The Process Owner is responsible for the continued health and welfare of the process. The team is busy moving on to tackle the next improvement effort, so it’s key to leave the process in good hands.

Monitoring & Response Plan -

Ensure the New Process Is Managed and Monitored

In order to maintain focus, the team must narrow down the vital few measurements they need for ongoing monitoring of the process performance. There may have been dozens of measures that helped the team dig to root cause, but the goal at this point is to establish a balance of “leading” and “lagging” indicators. Leading measures alert the Process Owner of issues coming down the pike, whereas lagging measures answer the question, “how did we do last month?” We need both.

This Monitoring Plan is accompanied by a Response Plan which dictates the expected performance of the newly improved process. It also outlines the “Trigger Levels”—if the process goes beyond these points then it’s not operating as it should and it’s time to react. The Response Plan details what to do if and when the process performance starts to decline. The plan is for continued process refinement—the pursuit of perfection!

Project Storyboard -

Document the Improved Process

Throughout the life of the project the team has been creating documentation—Standard Work, Process maps, Checklists and so on. It should be painless to finalize the documentation so others can use it. This smooths the way for training new employees and it also makes it simple for existing process participants to adopt the new way of doing things. Adoption and adaptation are critical to ongoing success.

One of the most powerful methods of ensuring that others follow the new process is to create a visual workspace—labels, outlines, color-coding, and standards. This means anyone can see at a glance exactly how a process flows and where to find what they need. The more intuitive the updated process becomes, the less training anyone needs to understand it.

Transfer Improvements—Spread the Wealth!

One of the best ways to increase the power and “bang for the buck” of any Lean Six Sigma effort is to apply the discoveries from the project into other areas within the organization. Even if it’s not feasible to transfer the entire project, there may be parts of it that could be adapted and shared.

Before they hand off their project, the team takes inventory of all the Quick Wins, Visual Boards, and other value-adding techniques they used and considers what might work for another team. The idea is to spread innovation quickly. This transfer of improvement ideas can come from large and small efforts but quickly multiplies the impact for the business.

Share and Celebrate Your Success

Although the temptation is to race off to the next big effort, it’s important to stop and reflect on what the team accomplished. It’s key to share the news of project success since it accelerates change momentum. When colleagues and other business units see results, they immediately want in.

The team is in charge of marketing and publicizing each innovation. One great format for sharing results is the project displays like “Gallery Walks.” These are formal gatherings to educate colleagues and leadership and help to build the problem-solving culture. The cycle of improvement builds and continues. That’s worth celebrating!

Icon: Tools -

Tools: Gallery Walks

Continuously Improve the Process

The Control Phase is not the end of improvement, it is simply a milestone in the journey. With each success, the problem-solving culture grows. The “C” in DMAIC stands for both “Control” and “Continue.” The journey continues but it’s smart to take the opportunity to pause.

As each project comes to a close, it helps to reflect on the four Lean principles—Value, Flow, Pull and Perfection. As Continuous Improvement teams celebrate their results, they double down on their efforts going forward. Now is the time to remind fellow employees of the foundations of their success. Every process—even one recently improved–can always be better. These principles guide the way:

  • Value: Determine what steps are required (are of “Value”) to the customer
  • Flow: Remove Waste in the system to optimize the process to achieve a smoother pace
  • Pull: Ensure the process responds to customer demand (“Pull” = want)
  • Perfection: Continuously pursue “Perfection” within the process

Building an army of problem-solvers happens slowly and strengthens each time an employee succeeds in reducing bureaucracy, improving profits, making work life easier and customers happier. Time for a new challenge!

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