How do you improve the approach your teams take when completing a project. No, not during a lessons learned meeting–I mean during the project itself? It's not impossible to do, but it does require a shift in understanding of how to implement improvement while in the middle of the effort itself. As Bob Tarne, PMP, explains, the Japanese term Kaizen, or continual improvement, is a process for eliminating waste and making small changes that lead to significant results. It's the foundation for Total Quality Managment (TQM) and something most manufacturing companies strive for across the world. Likewise, Kaizen and TQM have made their way into IT, where leaders attempt to apply the same principles to project management.
The key to implementing effective continuous improvement is by identifying steps, decision points, and roles:
A good example is when a wait queue occurs somewhere in the process. For example, requirements may be written and held in queue for weeks or months until developers become available. During this period, the stakeholder’s needs may have changed, but the process does not accommodate that possibility. (In a Lean manufacturing environment, all queues are removed.)
It may seem remarkably fundamental, but it's important to remove steps that do not add value. In continuous improvement, teams focus on one improvement at a time, which helps eliminate stale work and stops costly rework due to changed requirements.