Your guide to the many names, terms, acronyms and phrases used when talking about delivering process improvement.
Written by: Deborah Biscomb, Head of Marketing
As we speak to leaders and managers in operational excellence roles we find that one recurring challenge in their improvement efforts is that they want to drive more sustainable ROI from their projects.
At the root of the issue preventing teams from supporting their leaders in achieving this is standardization. That means a common understanding and approach to improvement methodology in their business.
This begins with language. That's why we've put together this jargon buster with over 50 terms that are used in the world of operational excellence, business process management, continuous improvement and beyond.
3Ms, 5 whys and 7 wastes
Three questions to correct a problem - concern, cause and countermeasure.
Meaning that 80% of outcomes originate from 20% of inputs.
A core part of eliminating waste, abnormalities must be easily visible in a process to promote swift action. This becomes part of your standard work.
Instrument accuracy means the difference between a recorded average value in a test and the master value for the same test.
A time defined, iterative approach to software delivery that builds software incrementally from the start of the project. Closely linked with sprints, kanban boards etc.
A means to organize data and ideas relating to your process.
A board that empowers you to see the status of a production system and highlight emerging issues / abnormalities.
An analysis technique to organize data from best to worst and identify visual trends (Analysis of Good).
Similar to ANOVA, but only addresses the difference of means (Analysis of Means).
A statistical technique to analyze data by dividing the total variation of data into meaningful parts associated with specific sources of variation in order to test a hypothesis or estimate variance components (Analysis of Variance).
One of two values e.g. yes or no, green or red.
A control chart where the subgroup average, X-bar, is helps evaluate a process level's stability.
Barriers to flow
Process steps preventing flow, such as approvals or set up time.
A means to translate your strategic plan into metrics focused on different perspectives - finance, customers, process and learning.
A measure of how your process works now.
A means to compare performance, such as year on year or best results.
Business process management (BPM)
A comprehensive approach to improving flow, streamlining and aligning the process to your customers' needs.
A group approach to creating new ideas / problem solving.
In strategy deployment, a change in the existing processes and performance of an organization.
Data grouped into categories.
Cause and effect diagram
A problem-solving tool used to form relationships between effects and causes. The effect is revealed via branches (fishbones) showing different causes of it.
Cause and effect matrix
A tool for analyzing a process by ranking the impact on the customer and likelihood of occurence. This usually precedes an FMEA.
Common cause variation
Causes of variation that are inherent in a process over time.
Data of any value, e.g. width.
Increasing business effectiveness by reducing inefficiencies, frustrations, and waste (time, effort, material, etc.).
Control charts (Shewhart charts)
A chart that shows if a process is in control.
What is the cost of failing to meet a customer's expectation? Covering views such as internal, external, inspection, prevention and missed opportunities (Cost of Poor Quality).
What an organization, individual or team does best.
The actions taken to address the root causes of problems which prevent you from achieving your goals.
Your business' character, made of its values, vision, routines, symbols and structures.
Current state (current state map)
The current state value stream map shows the current process' flow of information and identifies opportunities for improvement.
What your customers consider critical to quality.
The time required to complete one cycle of an operation.
Giving daily attention to issues which occur within business as usual.
Plan, Do, Check, Act:
- Plan: Define your goals and map out how you’ll achieve them
- Do: Implement your plan
- Check: Assess the results of your plan and understand any improvements that can be made
- Act: Adjust based on your findings from ‘Check’
Statistically planned experiment based on the FMEA and process map (Design Of Experiment).
A measure of the potential for a defect in a process (Defects per Million Opportunities).
When a customer requirement isn't met, can also be known as escapes (Defects per Unit).
A process, measurement, or statistic's natural shift over time.
Independent and controllable variables which can change the output of a process used in DOE.
Work which fails to meet customers' need.
First in first out (FIFO)
Items removed / processed in the same order received.
Failure Modes and Effects Analysis – a method for documenting potential failure modes, determining effects, identifying causes of failures, developing a plan, agreeing action and then taking said action.
The new set of conditions which will improve process and information flow.
Going to where value is created.
Visiting the area in the production where there is an issue.
Reflection on the past and moving forward with its learnings.
Hoshin Kanri – sometimes known as Hoshin Planning, Policy, Goal or Strategy Deployment – is a strategic planning process whereby strategic goals are communicated and translated into action.
Originating in Japan in the 1950s and now being adopted worldwide as the de facto Strategy Execution methodology, Hoshin Kanri means “policy management” in Japanese.
The characters use elements of the words ‘compass’ and ‘direction’, with the obvious implication that you need to know where you are going, and a map to get there.
Short, regular meetings to share key information and agree action plans.
Ishikawa (Fishbone) diagram
A structured way to brainstorm and capture cause and effect, also known as Fishbone due to its shape.
A Japanese philosophy which sees improvement in productivity and customer experience as a gradual and methodical process.
A short structured problem solving event where 100% of the time is spent identifying how to improve a process.
A method of pulling work through a system so the downstream process signals the upstream process to replace what has been used.
A board with red cards showing outstanding tasks, due date and owner. This turns green when completed.
Katas are the bringing to life of small routines through practice, as opposed to learning by memorizing. These are crucial to the Toyota Production System.
The Kata is a protocol to ensure that knowledge and best practice can be transferred in your organization.
Two Katas are fundamental to Toyota’s improvement culture:
- Problem solving: Here the focus is on one issue or improvement priority at a time, with swiftness of problem-solving at the core of the Kata
- Coaching: Improvement is fundamentally bottom up, achieved through leaders offering guidance on how to resolve problems in the best way
Katas are important for business leaders regarding continual improvement as they are ingredients for a culture of growth and learning.
A method to understanding problems by asking:
Business critical values which measure progress towards strategic goals.
The total processing time from order to delivery
Observe, orient, decide, act.
See Deming Cycle.
A tool categorizing ease of implementation and anticipated benefits. PACE means:
- Challenge, and
A chart containing bars of individual values, organized in descending order to show the few but important issues to address. It follows the 80 - 20 rule.
A workplace board showing performance.
A system to prevent errors.
A series of actions that produce something or create a particular result.
The sequence and interactions of process steps that make up an individual process, from beginning to end.
A tool to visually demonstrate the steps and decisions in a process in the aim of giving a clear understanding of the process.
A document created at the beginning and used throughout a project / event to provide focus and goals for a project.
A system focused on producing only what has been consumed by downstream activities or customers, minimizing waiting, over-production and inventory waste.
In contrast to the pull system, product is pushed into a process, regardless of whether it is needed.
Quality function deployment (QFD)
A matrix use to plot and rank product / service features to understand what is critical to the customer.
SMART goals are an effective way for creating meaningful targets, meaning the goal should be:
- Relevant, and
An agile term for working chunks of 2 weeks with a defined amount of work.
An agile team meeting to identify the work that will be completed during a sprint.
Map stakeholders, their level of interest and influence in your work and how you should best manage them
A measure telling you the variation in a process.
An optimum use of people, machines (mechanical resources) and material for a process.
Standard work in process
The minimum amount of material needed in a process for proper flow.
Standardization means documenting the best way to complete your process and ensures reduced variation and more consistent customer experience.
Statistical process control
Monitoring performance outputs over time to monitor if output is in control.
All the end to end stakeholders in your product / service.
An acronym covering the seven wastes:
- Over-processing, and
Value stream map
A process map that captures information, process flow and performance data.
Where you want your organization to be and how you will get there.
The display of information so it is visible and understandable at a glance.
Voice of the customer
The "Voice of the Customer" is the term used to describe the stated and unstated needs or requirements of the customer.
This can be documented by:
- Focus groups
- Customer specifications
- Warranty data
- Field reports
- Complaint logs
- Customer service tickets
- Social media
Continue learning about continuous improvement
Click here to learn more about continuous improvement, or take a look at these content recommendations:
- Continuous improvement in 2020 and beyond: Watch how continuous improvement will evolve into the 2020s and how you can be successful.
- DMAIC v Six Sigma v Lean: Our guide to the steps and tools you'll need when driving process improvement through one of these three methodologies.
- The Leader's Guide to Continuous Improvement: Download this eBook to get a comprehensive overview of how DMAIC, Six Sigma, Lean, PDCA can support your business in finding competitive advantage.
About the author
Deborah Biscomb is i-nexus’ Head of Marketing. Deborah has wide-ranging experience of markets such as retail, manufacturing, financial services, public sector, telecommunications, energy and utilities, distribution and logistics. As Head of Marketing, her drive is to raise awareness and understanding of the challenges facing enterprises in controlling their strategy and driving superior results.