DMAIC 5 – Control: Making Your Improvements Stick

Welcome to the final instalment of our DMAIC series. We’ve covered Define, Measure, Analyze, and Improve. If you’re working through a project, that means you’ve defined your project, measured your current state, analyzed why some of the problems are occurring, and implemented improvements. Fantastic.

But your project isn’t over yet. In fact, you’re about to embark on what’s likely the hardest phase: Control.

Maybe you’ve implemented a new process for incorporating a company or a more efficient way to draft and review legal opinions. Whether it’s a legal or a business or administrative process, you’ll have changed the way people work and improved your outcomes.

When the initial excitement fades, or the energy for audit or enforcement drops, people often lose interest and slide back into their old ways. In the Control phase, you must ensure that your improvements continue to be implemented and that you’re still reaping benefits.

How do you do it?

  1. Ensure people know WHY they need to follow the new policy
    Communicate the importance of the new process, how it fits with your firm’s strategy, why it’s important, how peple will benefit. Socialize the new process, and make sure everyone understands what’s in it for them.
  2. Ensure they know HOW  to follow the new policy
    Create clear maps and practice guides for the new process. Wherever possible, make the new process visual. That old adage, a picture is worth a thousand words, is definitely true at the control phase. Show don’t tell people what they need to do. Provide resources and mandatory training from the beginning.
  3. Reward compliance
    Consider the incentives you create for following the new process.
  4. Set up regular audits and checkpoints.
    Keep collecting data. Share the successes.

The key to Control is creating new behaviours.

To change people’s behaviour, you have to change their underlying belief. They need to believe the new way is easier, faster, better for them. One of the best webinars I’ve seen on this aspect of change comes from Jamie Flinchbaugh.

Creating effective control mechanisms starts early in the improvement process. It cannot be an afterthought. Design your improvements with control in mind. That is, build the control in.

Our top tips:

  1. Make the new process visible, so deviations can be easily recognized. Good signage, colour-coding, and labelling can help in administrative processes.
  2. Error-proof your process. Use those process maps you created along the way. Share them, digitize them. Use a tool like ProcedureFlow to create on-screen process maps and practice guides that people can work through without making mistakes.
  3. Make non-compliance more difficult than compliance. People will take the easy way. For many, the old way will seem easier simply because they know it. You need to make the new way easier than the old way.

Good luck. Contact us if we can help you with any aspect of your process improvement projects.

Photo credit: Death to the Stock Photo