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Plan for a Culture of Continuous Process Improvement in 2015

One of the biggest challenges with print software technology today is achieving its full potential. We often get lost in the running of our day-to-day business which prevents us from ongoing process improvement. After the initial implementation, we get distracted and back to the reality of getting customer jobs out the door. We fall into the bad habit of reactive improvement, or if you prefer a more technical term, “Band-Aids”.

By Jane Mugford
Published: November 21, 2014

One of the biggest challenges with print software technology today is achieving its full potential. We often get lost in the running of our day-to-day business which prevents us from ongoing process improvement. After the initial implementation, we get distracted and back to the reality of getting customer jobs out the door. We fall into the bad habit of reactive improvement, or if you prefer a more technical term, “Band-Aids”.

Finding the time for focused, proactive, continuous improvement is hard. We often spend so much time creating fix-it processes ‘instantly’ to deal with a problem rather than focusing on preventing the problem in the first place. So, as we approach the holidays, be determined to encourage and foster a culture of proactive process improvement in 2015. Make it fun, make it easy and be committed. Here are some suggestions to get you into ‘proactive’ mode and keep you there:

1. Don’t go at it alone. Build a team of 3-5 people and ask them to be involved in this initiative. It’s just like exercise; it’s much more fun to work-out if you have someone to drag to the gym with you.

2. If necessary and you feel like you need someone external to keep you on track, work with your vendor or consultant to keep you moving initiatives forward and keep you on task.

3. Schedule regular recurring meetings: I suggest every two weeks. For 45 minutes maximum. Pick a time and set a recurring meeting, for all of 2015. Don’t pick Mondays or Fridays. Those are always bad days for crisis or holidays getting in the way.

4. Focus and Prioritize. Ask each committee member to pick 3 things to have on their list. Two should be simple processes that need an overhaul and one can be bigger challenge. Ideally, they should be picking processes that are in their area of work. An example of a simple one would be “our process for internal proof communication is suboptimal”. Your committee members can solicit input, ideas and suggestions from other colleagues. As they complete a process, they need to add another one. Three is always a good number to have on the list.

5. Measure. Keep a scoreboard visible to the committee. Each process flagged for improvement should be on the board. As processes get overhauled, check them off. It is so easy to only focus on what’s not done; we forget to celebrate our accomplishments. It can be very motivating to see processes get checked off the list and it can suddenly make change seem very easy and a lot less intimidating

6. Set Milestones. Maybe its 5 processes to be re-engineered. Once you hit the milestone, agree to take the committee out for lunch or have some way of to celebrate what you are doing.

Change isn’t hard if you make it task specific and ‘bite-sized’. Change is overwhelming when we just talk about it but never do anything about it. Then the list of problems and challenges just grows.

Jane Mugford is a contributor at WhatTheyThink’s Print Softwaresection as well the lead print MIS specialist at Web2Print Experts, Inc. a technology-independent print software consulting firm helping printers with web-to-print and print MIS solutions.

 

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