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Adoption is the Hard Part

For processes to improve anything, they must be used. To be used, they must be useful. It is best if they are tested using pilot projects, refined, and then put into more widespread use.

The people doing the work need the appropriate skills to use the methods, tools and written procedures. Helping them acquire the skills to support new or modified processes is the most challenging and time consuming part of process improvement. Often people expect others to start using new processes, methods, or tools simply because they arrive on their desks. In other cases, an overview course is provided with little or no follow-up to ensure that the practices are put into place. Good implementation requires significant training and guidance or assistance as people try the new skills.

Many organizations try to do too much too fast. Once the dust settles, they realize that they cannot sustain what they have created. Improvement priorities should be carefully set and managed so that new practices are introduced at a speed that people can absorb.

Some questions to use to determine if your process improvement program is serving your needs:

  • Are the current process improvement activities tied to business goals and, if so, how do you know if they are helping?

  • Are the current process improvement activities tied to actual problems experienced by the organization (will working on these issues help you?) This should be true for the organization, projects, managers and practitioners.

  • Are you putting enough effort into adopting and practicing new or improved techniques (this should be as high as 60% of the improvement effort)?

  • Have the practices been appropriately tailored to fit your needs? Have you run pilot projects using the new practices to make sure they are appropriate?

  • Are you collecting evidence that things are improving? This can include anecdotal stories as well as some simple metrics. Even opinion surveys can give valuable feedback.

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