Because of the comparatively low level of innovation required for Horizon One and Process Improvement projects, these projects can be started from lists of identified opportunities. These lists typically come from key customer requests, marketing and business development personnel, trend analysis, competitive intelligence, process flow analyses, operations benchmarking, or Pareto analysis. The identified opportunities can be prioritized by using a importance versus urgency versus creativity matrix as described in Chapter 15. The opportunities that are urgent, important and require low creativity obviously come first.

Process Improvement Problem-Solving Model

Once the identified opportunities have been prioritized, the next step is to form a project team and scope out the specific project. The tools used for process improvement projects are shown in the “Process Improvement Problem-Solving Model” figure. The tools used are primarily those developed for statistical process control of manufacturing processes. Full Quality Functional Deployment and Statistical Process Control methodologies are not meant to be described here, but it is important to mention from a project management standpoint which tools the team should be familiar with and utilize. When scoping the project, this starts with Tree Diagrams, Establishing the Project Boundaries, and Quality Functional Deployment House of Quality Matrices.

In the third step, analyzing current processes to determine if there is statistical control or not is done via process flow analyses, and checklists. Analyzing the available data can be done by hand, but it is much preferred to use regression analyses for moderately complex processes and artificial intelligence engines to mine data for patterns in complex processes.

The last step in this part of the problem solving model is to define carefully the outcomes for the desired improved processes. This is where project leader skills are important. He or she must make sure all stakeholders are involved and that there is true agreement on the goals of the project. Completion of this step is achieved when all the important dependent variables and their desired parameters and been defined.

The next step in this type of project is to identify root causes and proposed solutions. The tools to use here are brainstorming, why-why diagrams, process redesign flowcharts, Kepner-Tregoe analyses, decision trees, failure modes and effects analysis (FEMA), and different types of Delphi and nominal group techniques.

In testing the proposed solutions it’s important to make sure that the experiments are designed properly. True Design of Experiments methodology should be used. An important tool mentioned in earlier chapters is that of desirability functions. When experiments are run the results should be displayed on the desirability function graphs as well as the interactions between all of the independent variables displayed using response surface modeling.
As the best solutions emerge, the project should recycle back to identification of root causes and proposed solutions (because the project goals have not been met) or move on to implementing the solutions and measuring the progress (if they have).

The last and perhaps most important step in this process is to acknowledge the team and communicate the final project results to everyone. This is true of all projects, not just Horizon One and Process Improvement ones. Ensuring that the team feels valued and that all in the organization understand that success is rewarded is critical to improving employee, supplier and vendor morale.

One-Page Project Summary

A detailed project management process is provided in Appendix I. Also for Horizon One projects the one page project manager approach is really valuable. A completed example of such a one-page document is shown in the “One-Page Project Summary” figure..