Here is my situation. I help a company to improve some of their key processes. During this process I train their employees to become a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt.
As we agree to a project plan, we find ourselves easily off-track due to changing priorities within their company. This puts our improvement projects on hold, increasing their lead-times and risking motivation of project team members.
This situation looks often inevitable and logical but makes no one happy.
Why is that? I ask myself: what can I do better next time to reduce the negative impact on the projects. There are many reasons why such distraction can happen, which causes delays in achieving our goals. Here are only a few…
Do you have a clear overall goal or vision?
To improve any process and situation, you first need to know which direction you want to move. Improving means moving from your current state to a desired state. But where is that?
I am not talking about the objective of a certain improvement project because that is a kind of built-in feature in our Lean Six Sigma project tool, HerkuLess®. I am talking about the overall goal or vision: why we started with this and other improvement projects at all?
Is it that you want to become the leader of your field, do you want to become the most cost-effective provider of your segment, the best place to work or the most innovative company in your niche…whatever.
Is your project contributing to your long-term goal?
If this vision – let’s say your 5 year goal – is clear, then the question is: how much is your project contributing to that goal?
When you easily get carried away with the next challenge or task instead of focusing on your current project, it may be because your project is not contributing clearly enough to achieve your future desired state.
This question is very tough, because I do not like to stop unfinished work by concluding: this project was not a good choice. There are other issues and needs to be taken care of. So we need to cancel the project. Oops… We all know this should be done sometimes, but still it does not feel OK.
Are you anticipating the Parkinson law?
Chances are big that you do not know this law of nature. At least when I ask my audience usually no hands go up. The Parkinson law states that the room and resources you allow for any project or activity, will all be consumed. Like if you have 4 hours for a task, you will spend 4 hours on it, while you might be able to do it in 3 or even in 2 hours.
With your focus it is the same: you allow yourself to take more time to accomplish your goal by changing your focus to other seemingly urgent issues.
It is also allowed and often even stimulated by your manager because he is also “just another human being” and therefore himself also easily distracted and losing the focus. He might ask you to work on another project or other issues, granting you extra time to finish later on what you were first working on. This switch of focus is very costly for the whole organisation. In the manufacturing industry, machine change-over-time is always a common enemy that needs to be reduced to the minimum. In other businesses and parts of the organisation, sadly, we do not recognise this problem.
Do You Know What to Do Next?
When you have a project and no clear structure to follow, than it is easy to postpone the answer on “what are we going to do next?”. This creates opportunity to deal with other seemingly urgent stuff instead of cracking your brain figuring out your next move.
I had this problem after I finished my Lean Six Sigma Black Belt training. I had learned a lot, but I did not know what steps to follow and what tools to apply in my first Black Belt project. This caused delays and worked even demotivating in some moments. I started spending my time with other tiny bits of tasks, instead of confronting my coach or process owner with my problems.
To avoid wasting your time because you do not know how to proceed with your improvement project, we have developed the web-based application HerkuLess®. Using HerkuLess® gives you clear control and provides you with structured steps in your project execution. It reduces your project lead-time by 75%.