In my videos I have spoken about the catapult – that wooden thing that launches balls around.  This catapult is commonly used when training Process Excellence or Lean Six Sigma.  The exercise of launching the ball and then measuring distance provides the catapult operators with the opportunity to learn the power of “Standard Operating Procedures”.  When you launch the ball without SOPs – each time a person launches the ball, it will travel a different distance.  After collecting the launch distance data and comparing between launchers, you will also see that the distances will differ between the launchers.

By defining and implementing SOPs – each person will launch the ball a consistent distance, as well between people, the ball will still launch the same consistent distance.  So for the catapult exercise, the SOP’s would look something like this:
Secure the catapult to the ground using duct tape – a visual or picture of how to tape the catapult down would be great here

  • Secure the tape measure to the ground – the start of the tape measure should be snug up against the back of the catapult – insert picture here too
  • A permanent marker – name the specific item – should be taped to the back of the catapult as a hard stop to hit the 170 degree angle (if the angle in which the ball should be released is different, then something else should be taped to the back of the catapult to ensure the launcher knows exactly where the release point is without having to use their judgment)
  • Tin foil should be placed on the ground to clearly mark where the ball lands – if you develop really clear SOPs, the ball can be launched consistently into a cup – by different catapult operators!
  • Etc

Thinking about your processes, consider if you have them all documented. Beyond just documenting the processes, take the time to watch staff execute the procedures.  Track how long it takes each “operator” to complete the task and make note where the process is prone to errors.  You will be surprised how differently the users of the procedures apply or follow them.  Sometimes procedures can be vague and open to interpretation.  Working with the end users, they will help you identify the improvement opportunities.  I encourage you to start to collect data on your processes.  You will be very pleased with the conversations the data will create!

Regional Finalist – Canada