Improvements don’t often happen by chance and there’s a common saying along the lines of “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.”  If you want to change the way things are turning out you’ve usually got to change what you’re doing.

Juran wrote about breakthrough and making change count, and he came up with a six-step process that can usefully be applied to most improvement projects:
1) Justify the need – be sure there is a problem to be addressed and, where appropriate, be prepared to present evidence to substantiate it.
2) Establish the project scope – know what you’re going to do and how far you are going to take it.
3) Get the right project team – get onboard the people who are able to make it work; there’s little point in starting out on an improvement project if nobody on the team has the authority to make any changes.
4) Fact finding – gather data and analyse it to identify improvement options.
5) Implement – choose the best option and implement it.
6) Maintain the gain – ensure the gains won’t be lost as soon as the project is closed.

Too often a project starts at step 4, or even 5 – and stops there.  And we wonder why things don’t get better.  Success depends on the why and who as well as the what and when.

I’m not a fan of slavishly following a formulaic approach, come what may; we need to use the lessons learned by ourselves and others to do better next time.  Juran observed, practised and learned to arrive at this process and, when applied intelligently, and with an understanding of the system and processes that will be encountered on the project, they almost invariably lead to a better result.

(Posted as a blog 21st June 2013)