Explore the world of Continuous Improvement templates. Sometimes there's really no reason to re-invent the wheel. The templates below are free to download and use.
There’s waste in all of our processes and the 8 Wastes Check Sheet provides a great way to identify and address it. The check sheet outlines 8 classic wastes that follow the DOWNTIME acronym—Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-Utilized Talent, Transportation, Inventory, Motion and Extra-Processing. It provides guidance for seeking out anything getting in the way of process flow. Using the 8 Wastes Check Sheet is an essential step to being able to “see” waste in the system so you can get rid of it.
Improving processes can be messy but there’s a handy one-pager that helps you focus your improvement efforts. The A3 is not simply an 11×17 piece of paper. It’s a way for problem solvers to show how they’re thinking through problems. It’s a real-time continuous improvement tracker to share with teammates and coaches. The A3 is the perfect vehicle to support a mentorship since the feedback is dynamic, contained and just-in-time.
Is everyone clear on why you’re addressing a process issue? Have you zeroed in on a measurable goal? Have you clarified the problem to be solved? Questions like these get answered in a Project Charter. It’s a living document that cements the starting point for everyone involved. You continue to update it as the problem becomes more defined. The key to a successful project is starting with a Project Charter and revisiting it often to ensure everyone is working on the same project.
If you’re lost in the weeds of a process, you need a high-level map like the SIPOC to give you the bird’s-eye view. SIPOC stands for Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers—those are the bookends of every process. Before launching into the details of a process improvement effort, it’s key to use a SIPOC to understand the big picture of what’s coming into a process and what customers require of the output. Having a high-level map helps you decide what to measure and which parts to map in detail. It’s the perfect starting point.
Process Maps are essential tools for understanding what goes on in any system, but a simple flow map doesn’t tell you who does what. In order to document how information and materials flow between people and departments you need a Swimlane Map. By separating the process into “lanes” that represent different functions you get a clear picture of where critical handoffs take place and how often they’re happening. Every handoff increases the odds of dropped ball, so use the Swimlane Map to find more improvement opportunities.
We often stop at symptoms when solving process issues which means the root cause never gets addressed. That results in problems remaining unsolved. The 5 Whys, which is reminiscent of a 5-year-old’s interrogation method, consists of asking “why” five times in order to move past symptoms and dig to the root cause. The 5 Whys worksheet has become a problem-solving mainstay that works in perfect combination with the Fishbone Diagram.
Process Walks are a great way to build profound knowledge of a process, but if you don’t ask the right questions you might miss the roadblocks at play. Process participants hold the key to understanding the root causes of process issues, so before you launch a Process Walk, make sure you print a Process Walk Interview Sheet to guide you through each interview. Consider yourself a detective trying to unearth every clue you can.
When interviewing process participants during a Process Walk, you might find them hesitant to speak up about process issues. If you fail to create an atmosphere of trust by following the Process Walk Ground Rules, then the walk itself might generate an atmosphere of fear. Use the one-page team handout to understand which behaviors ensure the best Process Walk experience. The goal is to focus on the process—not the people.
Are you struggling with how to orchestrate a productive Process Walk? There’s a lot that goes into the planning and execution of Process Walks and the Process Walk Planning Checklist covers the key elements. It provides a handy to-do list with guidelines on mapping, communication, meeting arrangements and other details to tend to before running a successful Process Walk. Don’t leave home without it!
You know you need data, but which data? How much data and how are you going to collect it?
In order to avoid having to redo your collection efforts, it’s key to have a solid Data Collection Plan. Thinking through the detail increases the odds that you’ll collect reliable baseline data. Considering things like stratification factors means you can collect clues to the root causes of process issues. Organizations are often data-rich, but information-poor. Using the Data Collection Plan gives you the best shot at getting the information you need.
How do you capture your theories of root cause? Where do you build on your Process Walk discoveries? A Fishbone Diagram is a living document that provides a structure for documenting the roots of process issues. The “bones” are the categories of root causes while the issue or “effect” lives in the head of the “fish.” The fish head always stinks! Also called a Cause and Effect Diagram, it was originally invented by Kaoru Ishikawa. Fishbone Diagrams help you track and prioritize so you can verify root causes of persistent problems.
If you’ve done a good job of analyzing the process you should have a great list of potential solutions, but what if you don’t have the time or resources to implement all of them? The Solution Selector helps you assess the impact of each countermeasure and the relative effort involved with its implementation. It uses criteria ratings and scores but functions as both a decision discussion tool as well as a way to communicate the team's thinking to Stakeholders.
Customers might be vocal, but they’re not always clear. Or they might not be describing their experience in ways you can immediately act on. The Voice of the Customer Translation Matrix helps translate customer comments into measurable requirements. Knowing exactly what customers want is key to focusing successful improvement efforts. Customers are not always right but they’re powerful.
How do you know you’ve solved the root cause of a process issue? Until you verify each potential root cause all you have is educated guesses. Confirming the root cause could involve testing, observation, questioning or investigation. The Root Cause Confirmation sheet provides a structured way to move past symptoms and get to the true root of process problems. That’s the gateway to improving the process!
Once an improvement project is completed there’s a risk that everyone will move on to the next big thing and the hard-won gains will dissipate and fade away. Use the Monitoring and Response Plan to prevent any loss of improvement and to pave the way for continuous upgrades. This worksheet guides you to select key measures to keep an eye on the updated process as well as document an action plan to use if things start to slip. What gets measured gets managed and that’s true before, during and after an improvement effort.
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As improvement efforts come to a close, there’s a risk of everyone racing off to the next big thing without ensuring their good work will be sustained. The Project Sign-Off captures hard and soft gains, lessons learned and serves as a certificate of completion between the Team Lead, the Project Sponsor and the Project Owner. It’s the perfect milestone marker.
If we fail to capture our improvement efforts then organizations can’t capitalize on our discoveries and successes. Project Storyboards provide ready-to-go project overviews. They communicate process improvement success stories and highlight real-world examples of Lean Six Sigma tool application. The Storyboard helps build momentum by sharing lessons learned so that others can avoid mistakes and replicate success. Share the wealth!
Problem solving is rewarding but it gets lonely if nobody wants to change anything. Finding allies to join you and unearthing “critics” to help vet your ideas will lead to faster and more lasting improvements. Use the Allies & Critics Club Worksheet to both uncover vital networks and then as a guide to which questions to ask
Leadership wants to do the right thing, but it's not always clear what that is. By listing the behaviors and actions that will help build a strong Continuous Improvement culture, the path for leaders becomes easier to navigate. Not just the behaviors to continue and start, but what to stop doing. This template guides teams and leadership toward a strong, successful work culture.