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QUALITY MANAGEMENT: High Performance Systems

mikeharringtonwebsiteOn Friday last week I was fortunate enough to present a sample of our Continuous Improvement workshop to a room full of members from the American Society for Training and Development of Albany, NY.  During our session I took the group on a road trip that stopped at a number of landmarks along the way that provided them with a deeper knowledge of the foundational components to any high-performance system.

Using the roadmap that was provided we started off our journey by identify some critical planning pieces before we jumped right into the trip.  Once we had identified our challenges, company goals, our product and the current process we had in place that we would be examining, we then had to evaluate ‘the gap,’ the gaMichael Harrington presenting at ASTD Breakfastp being that distance that exists between the current state of our organization and the desired future state. For many, that ‘gap’ was a significant distance across and it quickly became evident to some that they were going to need a clear plan of attack to reach the company goal.  The recognition many had in this section came from an idea based on Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, in which Collins believed that to become a great company, you first have to make sure you have the right people, in the right seat, on the right bus, and that bus had to be headed in the right direction.  It’s funny, every time I share that thought with people, they always laugh – recognizing that their current team is not the one that will lead them to greatness. (Read NDCBlogger’s synopsis of Good To Great)

(Download Road Map)

New Directions presents High Performance Systems presentationThe High-Performance System
Every high performance system, whether you’re talking about Toyota, Six Sigma or something else, uses the same model or mindset.  Many begin with the idea that within the large company, you have a lot of mini-companies that consist of departments, groups or teams, and each one of these groups operates as a mini-company. These mini-companies must instill the rest of the high-performance components: process controls, standard work, just-in-time production, metrics, engagement and continued improvement, in everything they do.

The group then took a few minutes to develop their ‘Single OPS’.  This modified One Page Strategy allowed them to focus on the role their department or team played in helping the organization reach its overall goal. Within the OPS we identified the overall vision, our focus area, the SMART goal within that focus area, and the different initiatives we were going to implement in order for us to reach our mini-company goal.

(Download a Single OPS)

While the implementation of Lean is typically tied to the manufacturing setting, it is not uncommon for other industries to adopt the premise of many of the components. As the group rounded the corner on the roadmap they were introduced to the first phase of the Lean process – identifying where the wastes are.  Using the 8 Wastes model (correction, over production, motion, materials movement, waiting, inventory, process and talent), we reviewed where most of the waste within an organization comes from, with the group indicating their own high waste areas.

Once the wastes were identified we then had to figure out how to eliminate them. Within Lean, the concept of ‘5S‘ is designed to coordinate materials and eventually eliminate waste. Through the process of sorting materials, we separate those items that are used regularly, from those that are rarely used, and then remove materials that have no purpose and simply take up space. From there we straighten the materials we’re left with, following the mantra “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” With our materials in the appropriate places, we shine or clean the area which we’re in, believing that it’s much easier for us to spot something that’s out of place when our workspace is properly aligned. The fourth piece in this process is the standardiz(e)ation of the way we do business. When everyone is trained correctly, we eliminate the waste of rework and poor process. And finally, when we can sustain this mindset so that it becomes part of the culture, we can begin to focus on other areas of improvement.

GLASS HOUSE METRICSNow that the group had cleaned house, they continued their trip to the next high-performance element. This stop required them to build a belief that behind every good decision is data, and behind all data is the system that collected it.  High-performance systems rely heavily on the gathering of metrics and the sharing of those metrics through a ‘Glass House’ model.  When we look to evaluate our efficiency, we must identify those areas that will yield us the most useful data. In a high-performance mindset it is the collection of data in regards to quality, safety, delivery, cost and morale, which have proven to be of most help.  With this understanding the group was then asked if their data was relevant to those who needed it the most. The belief behind ‘Glass House’ metrics is that it must tell the viewer if he/she has done a good job today.  A major problem for most organizations is that their data is old by the time it is collected and reviewed, often relating back to a previous month or quarter, and it rarely provides useful information to those who are actually involved in production.

Root Cause Analysis
Symptom versus cause? That should be the question we always ask when a problem presents itself. I bet that more often than not, the problem that we witness is a symptom of a larger issue; however, most of us never take the time to dig deep enough to find that cause – simply focusing on the quick win or easy fix to a problem that has just smacked us across the face.  If we truly want to continuously improve, which most inherently do, then we must have the commitment to look past the muck, which might look like unhappy customers, late deliveries or too much inventory, and get to the root cause of these problems we are experiencing.

Most of us don’t instinctively go immediately to the cause of a problem. This group of travelers was no exception, and so, we decided to use the ‘5 Why’ process to help us discover what was causing the symptoms we were experiencing. This process allowed us to clearly identify what we were experiencing, and then guided us five ‘whys’ deep to bring us closer to what was driving this problem.

(Download 5 Why’s Chart)

As we began to bring our bus around, closing in on the finish line, there was one last push towards high performance.  Sharing with the group that while there are many processes that present themselves in a system whether it be the start up or planning process, the executing process or the closing process; however, it is the dismissal of the importance of the planning process that leads most systems to fail.  The group was quick to recognize that often our first step is to dive head first into the execution of a project or initiative, just to have to double back in order to make course correction or to re-establish the primary goals and approach, to achieve the mission.

It’s important to note that the idea of Continuous Improvement and the implementation of these components are all part of a larger philosophy. That philosophy is one in which, the entire organization buys into the belief that it can be exponentially more productive with minimal waste should it choose to embody the entire concept of High-performance Systems. So while some may choose to implement parts and pieces, they must recognize that a larger commitment to the concept is required for High-Performance status.

In the end, the presentation was well received by the group. They made it around the course, and were able to take the concepts that were expressed and apply them immediately into their work space – with hopes of reaching that high-performance status.

p.s. It wasn’t all business last Friday; we had some fun too…

“Building a Spagmallow Tower”Harrington Spagmallow

New Directions Spagmallow building


Harrington working with participant on 5 Whys

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An innovative training and employee development firm located in southern Vermont since 1984, we specialize in helping organizations get the most out of their people by raising the bar, inspiring potential and partnering with organizations to build a people-centered, high-engagement culture.

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