While kaizen projects are typically short duration rapid improvement activities more and more businesses are embarking on significant process improvement projects where traditional project management methodologies can be a key contributor towards success.
Typical Kaizen projects usually rely on hands-on employee support and involvement with the teams developing and implementing their own solutions often over a short time scale. These environments, targeted at small scale, rapid improvements are not always overly concerned with traditional project management methodologies rather more with the results (through utilizing techniques such as DMAIC, Poke Yoke or other).
However for larger scale business improvement projects more traditional project practices including risk management have greater relevance.
Why risk management
Risk management is the task of identifying threats that could impact the outcome of your project and developing mitigation tasks that reduce the like hood or lessen the impact.
Typical risks can affect
• Project deliverable (the improvement)
• Project quality
• Project schedule
• Project cost
Does risk really apply to improvement projects?
Yes! Risk really does apply to most projects for example if you look at some common risks you can apply these to many projects.
While these example risks may seem a tad generic they do illustrate the prevalence of risk.
The nuts and bolts of managing risk
So risks everywhere but how should you manage the issue? For improvement specialists the risk management process can be a bit alien. A lot depends on the likely impact. For example through implementing a Poke Yoke on an assembly line that may take a day or two to implement you may consider the risk of failure as minimal (and would lead to minimal impact) would you carry out a full risk management process, creating a risk log and consulting stakeholders – probably unlikely. However should you as the improvement lead consider risk as part of your activity – absolutely.
In larger scale business change projects risk management should absolutely not be taken for granted and the usual tools, risk management plan, risk log and stakeholder consultation can be used to varying degree.
I guess the key consideration is the extent of what could go wrong. In many businesses the lines of business improvement and project management often become blurred and with those running improvement activities often being seen more as project managers than mere lean practitioners. Without a doubt project management methodologies can sometimes become over bureaucratic however they can also undoubtedly be effective and have their place in the business improvement toolkit.