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Online Workshop: Continuous Improvement


This is the report from the TrainingZONE online workshop held on 6 June 2000 on the topic of Continuous Improvement.

Bruce McKenzie: Hi Stephanie and Charles, welcome to the workshop. It's good to see people eager to make a start!

Bruce McKenzie: What experience have you had in managing quality?

Charles March: I am looking at implementing a quality system, so have little experience at present

Stephanie Phillips: Hi Bruce, Charles - my answer would be 'not very much', I'm afraid! We should get a few more people coming along in a moment.

Bruce McKenzie: Have you both been involved, for instance, in Investors in People? If so did you feel it helped you to make a more valuable contribution?

Bruce McKenzie: Hi Paul, Hi Kathey welcome to the workshop. we are exploring people's experience of managing quality as a starter. What's your experience?

Charles March: No, but I have heard mixed results

Stephanie Phillips: Hi Kathey, Paul. Bruce - yes, I've been involved in implementing and working towards a re-assessment. I suppose I'm not too clear on what 'quality' would be improved by IIP - communication maybe?

paul atherton: Managing quality is a massive and never ending project. IIP is one of many cogs in the continuous improvement wheel to assist in the process

Bruce McKenzie: One of the major benefits of IIP is linking people development with the strategic objectives of the organisation. Has anyone experience of this happening in practice. It must be a start point for managing quality.

paul atherton: PS Excuse my bad manners - good afternoon everyone!

marie Chambers: afternoon everyone

marie Chambers: have I missed much - only just joined in

Stephanie Phillips: Hi all. Marie - just click on the transcript below to check what's already happened.

Bruce McKenzie: Hi Paul, Hi Marie we are starting by establishing people's quality management experience.We are looking at IIP as a starter as it directly affects the individual

Bruce McKenzie: Hi Tim welcome to the workshop

Stephanie Phillips: Bruce - I've worked on integrating training with strategic objectives. Evaluating the effects on quality is more difficult , of course!

marie Chambers: sorry I don't have much experience in this matter

Tim Pickles: I've been involved in some initial IIP work; what impact do you think the revised IIP standards are likely to have on its use and adoption?

Bruce McKenzie: Stephanie, this is always a problem area! most organisations are good at implementing an integrated training programme, but what steps do you put in place to measure objectively that the right actions are being taken 3-6 months down the line

paul atherton: Hopefully it will encourage wider use, especially with smaller organisations

Bruce McKenzie: Tim, focusing on IIP as one of the quality management tools, I believe a major change for the better is the introduction of continuous improvement in the process. It is no longer static.

Stephanie Phillips: Bruce - yes, the perennial problem! I'm interested to know about other ways of improving quality in organisations as well though - the first thing that springs to mind are production-related initiatives such as ISO 2000!

Tim Pickles: I too am interested in other 'tools' for ensuring continuous improvement occurs in the workplace

paul atherton: Why not go for the full monty! - the Business Excellence Model

Stephanie Phillips: Sounds interesting! It rings a bell, but I don't know much about it!

Tim Pickles: Has anyone use the Business Excellence Model - if so, what results?

Bruce McKenzie: Thank you for raising this key instrument? I did not wish to force it down your throats! I am a Licensed Trainer in the EFQM Model and have also used it in practice.

paul atherton: The Newcastle College Training Company used to run free correspondence courses on it - 'Achieving Business Excellence'

Stephanie Phillips: Bruce, Paul - can you tell us a bit about how it works?

paul atherton: The course or the model?

Stephanie Phillips: the model - sorry!

Bruce McKenzie: The Excellence Model is based on nine criteria - five Enablers, the things the organisation does - and four Results criteria - the things the organisation achieves against its planned objectives

Bruce McKenzie: There is a sophisticated measurement and scoring system called RADAR which measures the organisation against headline statements of competence under each criteria ( there are 32 sub-criteria). The result of the detailed examination is a list of Strengths and Areas for Improvement for each sub-criteria; the Areas for Improvement (AFI's ) are the items prioritised for action.M

paul atherton: It takes a holistic approach to quality by encouraging organisations to self-assess their performance in terms of Business Results, Customer Satisfaction, Employee Satisfaction, Impact on the Environment etc and enables any outfit to benchmark themselves against world-class leaders

Bruce McKenzie: Hi Alastair, welcome to the workshop. We are looking at the EFQM Excellence Model as a holistic tool to help development quality in activities and results. Have you any experience in it?

Stephanie Phillips: It sounds good - are there any limits to the size of organisation it can be used on? Would you split a large organisation up into smaller groups?

Bruce McKenzie: The Model can be used in very small organisations as well as large. For example, a small firm in Cheshire, with 20 staff, has recorded 14000 improvements in the last three years. It can also be used for semi-autionomous d

Bruce McKenzie: sorry - semi-autonomous departments!
Tim Pickles: Where do you think responsibility for 'driving' such initiatives needs to lie within a company? How can it get to be 'owned'?

paul atherton: The MD

Stephanie Phillips: presumably the process is an ongoing one?

paul atherton: Yes

paul atherton: Sorry folks, got to go. Nice chatting with you.

Stephanie Phillips: thanks for your input Paul

Bruce McKenzie: Primary responsibility must lie at Board or Executive level - without their support, powerful initiatives such as this will not maintain momentum. However, every organisation must identify 'champions' of quality to drive the key improvement activities. At the other end of the scale, I believe that those people dealing with customers at the 'coal-face' must be encouraged to play a strong part in developing quality initiatives.

Bruce McKenzie: Thanks Paul

Tim Pickles: I agree about the need to for level commitment - but my experience is of such initiatives being compartmentalised - then it becomes another function that someone else is responsible for, not you. Gaining ownership seems to me to be both the biggest challenge and the most important key.

Bruce McKenzie: This is key to any initiative of course. We have to establish that the solution e.g. the Excellence Model will meet the problem/need identified by the key players. That then needs to be translated into the need/problems identified by different levels of staff.

Tim Pickles: The number of participants is dwindling. Perhaps we should invite any other questions before bringing this session to a conclusion.

Tim Pickles: I had a couple of questions from people who couldn't be present, but I think we've covered their points already.

Bruce McKenzie: Do any of you feel that quality initiatives in your own company are seen as 'flavour - of - the - month items? Is this an issue of ownership?

Tim Pickles: I suspect that the latest fad syndrome is part of the problem - people are struggling with the sheer number of 'latest initiatives' to come at them; meanwhile everyone is looking for panaceas! One issue, seems to me to be how to distil the essential core of all business improvement techniques.

Bruce McKenzie: Another issue I wanted to raise with you was the question of auditing and monitoring. What happens to the results in your organisation?

Bruce McKenzie: Tim, to answer your question, I agree that everyone is looking for the quick fix - its part of the pace of life! I do believe that the Excellence Model provides a helicopter view of the organisation and makes it possible to slot these different initiatives into each of the Criteria.

Tim Pickles: I think that's a huge issue. Plenty of people are producing the monitoring stats, but too little genuine use is made of them. In part this reflects the lack of definition of key critical indicators; it also reflects information overload. The auditing process will only be effective when people are presented with the core key data they need.

Stephanie Phillips: Tim - agree entirely, there is definitely information overload going on!

Stephanie Phillips: Hi Ian - check the transcript to see what's been discussed so far

Tim Pickles: Bruce - I think it's probably time to close down this session; we've had a fair number of people coming through, but it's been a little slow and more people would have been useful. We'll post the transcript later today. Thanks very much for your input to this session - hopefully it touched on a few relevant points. I'll let everyone close the window when they're ready to go!

Bruce McKenzie: Hi Ian welcome to the workshop. We are discussing quality initiatives and data overload. We have also spent some time looking at the EFQM Excellence Model as a tool to help manage this complexity.W

Stephanie Phillips: Ian - do you have any final questions for Bruce before we wind up?

Bruce McKenzie: Alistair, Ian - if you have no more points to raise, I think we will close the session.

Ian Dale: Thanks for the welcome, an interesting debate, those of you in Scotland who would like more info on the Excellence model should contact me directly..

Bruce McKenzie: Thank you for the offer Ian. For those elsewhere, I can help with more detailed information on the processes and benefits of the Excellence Model at a more leisurely pace!


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