Process Improvement Initiatives Help You Do More with Less
September 8, 2017
If you’re a housing authority director, you must find efficiency gaps in your organizations and then determine how to streamline annual inspection and ADA processes. Develop strategies for increasing the number of work orders you close daily or weekly, and consider how to leverage new technology to make your operations more efficient.
Once you identify where you need to focus, choose a process improvement methodology to tackle your issue. Here we’re using a Lean Six Sigma framework you can use to find ways to run more effectively.
The DMAIC Framework
First, identify and fully understand your agency’s pain points. Evaluate your costliest initiatives and determine if they can be optimized. Key areas to investigate include your:
- Inspection processes (recordkeeping, data management)
- Maintenance operations (work orders, schedules for maintenance techs)
- Service initiatives (such as Family Self-Sufficiency programs)
Which team members are most affected? And what role will they play in your process improvement initiatives? During this stage, consider the urgency and overall impact of the issue to develop an appropriate timeframe for addressing it.
A solid baseline measurement will help you determine the degree to which your efforts are successful. Leverage relevant metrics, such as hours, dollars and errors, to develop goals and deadlines.
Here, it’s valuable to create a problem statement: “Currently, it takes us an average of 29 days to process invoices. Our goal is to be able to process invoices in 20 days by Dec. 1, 2017.” This type of statement — which includes a defined start rate, goal and deadline — will ensure your team is held accountable for reaching milestones within a certain time.
Now it’s time to dive deeper and determine unequivocally the root cause. For example, your inspection process might be inefficient because your inspectors waste time and resources manually inputting data.
Use a variety of exercises and techniques, like the 5 Whys technique. You keep asking why a problem is happening until you land on the underlying cause. Other valuable facilitation tools include brainstorms and fishbone diagrams.
Next, determine how to address the problem. Again, you should experiment with different solutions. If, for example, you want to streamline your inspection process, test a mobile inspection system and evaluate the results. Use these successes (and failures) to fully flesh out a project implementation plan with clearly defined roles and responsibilities for all involved.
In the final phase of Lean Six Sigma, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your team is properly implementing the action items you laid out in the Improve stage. See if you’re achieving the desired effects through the initiatives you’ve put into place. If you’re not, it’s up to you to make the necessary adjustments.
The Bottom Line
By employing the Lean Six Sigma methodology or a similar strategy, you’ll be able to see where specific inefficiencies exist. Overall, though, it’s critical to consider where you should improve lines of communication, avoid collecting unnecessary data, and decrease the amount of time employees spend traveling from site to site. This will help make the most of your time and resources, leaving you more to focus on your main business goals.