Each process improvement is managed like a project, lead by a role similar to a “project manager”. They ensure tasks are identified, responsibilities assigned, timelines are set and they provide reports to the Champion on the progress of the improvement efforts. At Assiniboine Credit Union (ACU) we identify permanent process improvement “project managers” as Process Managers. Their primary training is in continuous improvement, but continually developing their project management skills. ACU has also deployed the use of Subject Matter Expert (SME) and/or Process Experts.
SME and Process Experts bring different skills to each project. The SME are trained in Process Excellence and work on projects that impact their daily work. The Process Experts are seconded (term position) staff trained in continuous improvement, and participate on any project regardless of the area in which they normally work. When ACU initiated our deployment, there were 3 full time Process Managers and several seconded full or part-time Process Experts and SMEs. It was our objective to train one staff person within each of our functional areas by the end of our first year of deployment. In order to achieve this goal, the Process Experts were often identified as the “project manager” for their projects, and they ensured the project met the timelines and task completion. At this time there is only one department in which a staff person has not participated on a Process Excellence (PE) project!
The SME are the key to the current process and provide the background knowledge of the current process, as well as possible options for improvement. The Process Expert or Process Managers ask the question “why”. Because they do not own the process, the Process Experts or Managers have an unbiased view of the procedure. They genuinely need to be educated about how and why things are done. Including both SME and Process Expert or Managers on project teams has been a successful approach for ACU. Together by mapping the current process, questioning why we do things and noting those steps that seem redundant, duplicating or unnecessary, the teams are building better processes.
The SME role does not end at the mapping of the current process, once the team is able to identify the root cause of the process issue – they move onto identifying a new procedure to address the issue. The SME is critical in generating, validating or testing the possible new procedures. The SME works within the department that owns the process, gathering feedback and input on the current and proposed new procedure. The team coordinates testing improvement options and use data to determine the best process. Upon implementing the improvement, the SME works with the Process Expert or Manager to track the results and determine a method for monitoring the acceptance and application of the new procedure into the future.
All participants on the PE project teams learn how to collect, use and analyse data when identifying root cause and finalizing the new process. Upon return to their day to day roles in ACU, they will continue to use their training, educating their colleagues and working towards a culture of continuous improvement.
P.S. My next step towards shifting the ACU culture is the development of a Process Excellence Leadership Training session. The one day forum will focus on providing the reasons for our PE deployment, how it will benefit ACU and the role these leaders must take to ensure the success of PE in ACU. Unfortunately this will take place after the contest, so I won’t be able to provide you with how it goes – but it is important for you to know in case you are taking notes for your own company or deployment!