This phase is all about getting more control over your workload. In Phase 5 and 6 you removed a lot of wasted capacity by standardising and automating much of your work. However, there is a limit to this, you still have people who need to complete process steps in order to deliver value to customers.
Phase 7 and 8 are about accelerating what cannot be eliminated or automated. It is a fine tuning of your workflow system to get even more reliability and productivity.
Most businesses are like a chain, a series of connected processes. Every chain has a weakest link that limits the overall strength of the chain. This is called the constraint. It is usually a resource type, process or policy.
By focussing on the weakest link or constraint it is possible to get a significant change in performance. Constraint Management is such a process and is deployed as follows:
- Identify the constraint
- Exploit the constraint (Get the most out of it)
- Subordinate to the constraint (Change policies, practices and behaviours to support the constraint)
- Elevate the constraint (Find ways to increase the capacity of the constraint. Invest if necessary)
- Prevent inertia from becoming the constraint (If the constraint changes return to step 1).
It is important not to confuse bottlenecks with constraints. Bottlenecks move easily, especially in surging workflows, and can change depending on the day of the week. The constraint is the long-term factor preventing you getting more jobs out the door and more money in.
With the constraint in mind, you will implement process and software changes to smooth the flow of work through the business. Rather than having departments that flip flop between being too busy and fairly quiet, the work is spread and scheduled to allow a consistent flow. This ensures you get the most out of the constraint while maintaining a calm and collected workplace. It will also significantly reduce the number of ‘bottlenecks’ you see.
Non-constraints are managed to maximise the ability of the constraint. Measures and policies supporting local efficiencies are updated to better drive global effectiveness. In some cases, team structure and responsibilities become more flexible, ensuring business productivity is not sacrificed in the name of department or individual productivity.
Job release to staff is controlled more tightly. This prevents them getting too far ahead on some jobs while others fall behind schedule. There is less cherry-picking and priorities are more clearly communicated to everyone. Staff can now focus on a few things at a time, reducing errors and oversights while also making for a lower pressure work environment.
This creates a positive cycle in the business. Spare capacity that was previously hidden becomes visible, allowing more cross training and other process improvement initiatives to be implemented more quickly. This creates even more spare capacity which can be invested in delivering more value to the customer for less cost to you.
EXAMPLES OF PHASE SEVEN
Below are some examples of how this phase is supported.
- The system nominates and communicates potential bottle necks
- Visual control boards make workload and progress data easily available to anyone
- Service tasks calculate available capacity and spread work over multiple capable staff
- The system, following your new rules, manages the release of work to the appropriate person at the appropriate time
- Increased productivity. More output is possible with the same headcount.
- Better communication and teamwork, fewer preventable service failures.
- More cross training and multiskilling to spread the load
- Smoother flow, less crisis, more calm
- More flexible and capable workforce
- Money flows into the business faster