There’s nothing better than the feeling of a job well done. And that is particularly true with a Business Improvement project. Completing a project is a great achievement as it represents a huge benefit to the business, skill as a project manager and the ability to innovate. However, many projects fail to take the logical next step by replicating the project and rolling out the benefits to the rest of the business.
Most Business Improvement initiatives follow a structured approach, such as Lean Six Sigma. These methodologies provide a clear roadmap for identifying, running and completing an improvement project. Usually, as part of the closure of the project, one of the final deliverables is replicating the project. In Lean Six Sigma, this step is in the Control phase of the DMAIC roadmap.
Replicating the project means finding other places or problems where you can leverage the key lessons from your successful project. This may be applying the same solution to an identical issue occurring in a sister office or plant; it may be identifying processes in other departments that face similar problems.
If the original project was well defined and managed to resist scope creep – which we can assume any successful project will have – there should already be potential areas outlined for project replication.
So why should you replicate a project, and what’s the problem with each project being a standalone success?
The benefits of replicating a project rather than starting from scratch are enormous: These secondary projects are faster to identify root cause, carry less risk and are generally quicker to complete which increases the return on investment.
If a manufacturing plant in the UK found that they could reduce the failure rate of widgets by making a certain change to the process, it follows that a plant owned by the same company, making the same widgets to the same tolerances with the same machines would see similar benefits. Running the project would confirm or deny if that was the case and, if so, the new process can be rolled out within weeks rather than months.
However, this is rarely done in practise; in my time as a Master Black Belt, I doubt that more than 10% of completed projects I’ve seen have attempted to replicate. At one company I worked in, successful projects were never copied by sister factories in the division even though they made the same products using the same technology.
Making replication the norm
But what can you do to ensure that project replication becomes the norm and you are able to maximise the value from your Business Improvement project?
- Make the project leader responsible for replication opportunities as part of the original project, and be prepared to keep them in place until they have finished all project tasks.
- Provide governance oversight to your Lean Six Sigma programme. Make the steering group or deployment champion accountable for the replication of successful projects.
- Identify potential future replication opportunities early on, and contact the relevant line or department managers as stakeholders. Consult them as the project goes on rather than presenting them with a fait accompli at the end so that they feel comfortable with the proposed improvements.
- Inform others about the project. Make sure it is fully written up so that all the key takeaways are available for others to use and build on.
Do this well, and you will increase the payback from your Business Improvement deployment many times over.