Progress Reviews for Innovation & Continuous Process Improvement

Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

How do you know if a process or program is working? In this lesson, we'll take a look at how to conduct a progress review for innovation and continuous improvement, including how often to do it and what steps to take.

Continuous Improvement

Nazy is running an umbrella company. About three months ago, she implemented a new process meant to improve the time it takes her customer service reps to respond to a customer complaint. Nazy's process was about changing one small thing at a time, and she's wondering how things are going now that they've rolled out several incremental changes over several months.

Nazy's new process is a continuous improvement process, which is about instituting incremental change meant to improve one aspect of an organization. In other words, continuous improvement is about innovating products and processes over time instead of all at once.

As with most programs, continuous improvement processes need to be reviewed periodically to see what's working and what's not. To help Nazy do that, let's take a look at the plan-do-check-act cycle and how to perform a progress review for continuous improvement and innovation.

Checking In

Continuous improvement and innovation follow a specific cycle. For example, Nazy didn't just jump right in, trying any old thing. She thought first about what changes she wanted to make and then implemented them one at a time.

The cycle most often followed with continuous improvement is the plan-do-check-act cycle. This involves first planning out what change will be implemented, then implementing (or doing) the change. After that, it's time to check how things are going through a progress review. Finally, the progress review informs how the organization acts, such as whether they roll the change out to an even larger extent or whether they try something new.

Nazy is interested in the check stage of the plan-do-check-act cycle. That is, she wants to find out if the changes she's made so far have been working. If not, she wants to know what she should change. For example, if she changed the way her customer service team is structured, she needs to know if the new structure is helping or hurting their response time.

Remember that Nazy started the continuous improvement process three months ago. This is about the right timeline for her to do a progress review since they are often done every quarter (or three months). Alternatively, she could check in more often, such as once a month or bimonthly. But she shouldn't let more than three months go by without doing a progress review.

Remember, too, that continuous improvement is an ongoing process. Nazy will want to conduct progress reviews at regular 1-3 month intervals for the entire time the continuous improvement program is running. This is to make sure that everything is still working and to continue to fine tune the implementation.

Progress Review

Nazy understands that she needs to do a progress review to check in on how things are going. But she's still unsure of how to do that. What are the steps to set up a progress review? How should she judge success in the program?

There are several steps to setting up a progress review. They include:

1. Set up a timeline. The first thing Nazy needs to do is to set up a timeline. How often will her progress reviews occur? As we said before, three months is a good timeframe, though she might want to do it more often.

2. Choose metrics. Next, Nazy needs to choose her metrics, or ways she'll measure success. There are a few important things to remember here. First, the metrics need to align with the goals of the program. It does Nazy no good to use sales numbers as a metric for this program if the purpose was to reduce response times for customer complaints!

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