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From Six Sigma Belts to PM Toolbelts: The Road to Continuous Improvement

By Amber Knight

In the past, I was a senior project manager for a large international customer communications management (CCM) service provider. Over the years, I supported several areas within the organization including sales, implementation and production. I was fortunate to be one of the employees selected to participate in our Six Sigma program. As part of our training, we were given examples of operational issues and were asked to apply what we had learned and utilize the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) tools to propose a solution. At the beginning of our training, I was eager to solve the issue and often wanted to skip right to the Improve phase because I felt confident that I would solve the problem with the information provided. As our training progressed, my hypotheses occasionally proved correct, but there were many times when the information provided by the detailed analysis drove a different solution than what I had anticipated. I quickly learned that without measuring and analyzing, my solution was based on limited information. I still possess a strong desire to solve problems, but I've learned that the solution path requires careful consideration of the details.

Several years later, my Six Sigma Master Black Belt coach was asked to create a small continuous improvement task force, which initiated our company’s Continuous Improvement Delivery Team (CIDT). CIDT team members would retain their existing jobs while spending about 20% of their time supporting a continuous improvement project. Over the next few years, I would travel to different sites in order to identify the root cause of an issue, propose a solution, and ultimately manage implementing it. I recall someone asking me why I would want to do all the added CIDT work. My answer back then was the same as today: I love making things better! Process improvement is my passion.

The skills and knowledge of continuous improvement can be applied to a variety of project activities, such as looking for process improvements when gathering requirements. I have found that one of the best tools for this is a process flow diagram, which is a visual representation of the steps involved in a process, providing a way to identify areas where improvement is needed. A process flow diagram can be used to represent any process within an organization. Here are a few situations where they can prove useful:

  • To understand the details involved in a process
  • To illustrate for others how a process works
  • To facilitate project team communication
  • To document current and future state
  • To streamline a process

A process flow diagram is a multi-tool in your project management toolbelt.

Looking to accelerate your implementation timelines? Do you have over-stretched resources?

Madison Advisors is here to help — from advisory services through managing a revamp of your onboarding process or project management office. Madison Advisors can fully examine your CCM strategy with a focus on supporting a positive customer experience and engagement.

Over the past two decades, Madison Advisors' industry-neutral expertise enables enterprise organizations, service providers and technology providers to achieve their strategic objectives around today’s evolving customer communications management (CCM) requirements.
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