19 Apr Quick Wins with critical impact in 30 days [success story]
When we talk about transformation, we are talking about long and large-scale projects. And they are! But the reality is that it is the small changes and milestones that enable and iteratively lead us to those great transformations. This is the case of a Central American company that produces sugar and its derivatives, which in just 30 days managed to impact 7 critical processes.
Why we talk about impact when we talk about quick wins
Change and transformation projects always face challenges or inhibitors that threaten them. Those challenges are not only related to the “technical” aspects of what is to be transformed but especially to cultural issues that need to be changed if we want the transformation to be real and sustainable. Among the most common cultural inhibitors we can highlight:
- not believing that this time it will be different and the change will really happen (due to bad experiences with attempts of change in the past that were not properly managed),
- lack of motivation after efforts and energy were put into a project and results did not arrive.
It’s true, transformations are long and don’t happen overnight. So how do we manage to show that we are aiming for genuine change this time? How do we make our people see that it is worth the effort?
One of the most powerful resources we have to maintain momentum and generate impact is quick wins.
These are small victories that can be applied fast and therefore allow to make changes in the processes in a short time. Plus, they can be implemented with very little effort and limited resources.
Quick wins have double power. On the one hand, they have a positive effect on people and, on the other, they contribute to the improvement of the process itself.
How we managed to implement quick wins in 7 critical processes in 30 days [case]
In 2020 we were contacted to accompany and guide an extremely challenging improvement project. The company, from the agricultural industry, needed to improve its processes and transform itself in a context of expansion and growth.
On the one hand, we were facing an immature organization in terms of developing continuous improvement projects and a culture of improvement. In addition, since it is a seasonal business, the improvements had to be concentrated in a limited time.
With only 30 days to implement the improvements, the combination of improvement techniques and change management actions became the key to the project.
We used a standardized system that facilitated the progress in each stage of the project, and that went through the following stages of analysis:
- Analysis of value: We identified the customers´ requirements, and what meant value to them.
- SIPOC: We diagrammed the management process defining suppliers (S), Inputs or resources (I), processes (P), Outputs or deliverables (O), and customers (C).
- Gemba: We visited the “place where things happen” and looked for visible problems.
- Waste: We analyzed the process, discriminating those tasks that added value from those that did not.
- Quick solutions: We devised possible solutions with a rapid implementation for the identified problems.
- Planning of structural solutions: We prioritized the solutions according to their impact and we defined which of them to implement and how to do it.
Here’s how quick fixes were identified, prioritized, and applied.
Stage 1. Definition of quick wins
First, we defined clear criteria to identify quick wins, and we trained the teams responsible for implementing the improvements in order to achieve alignment and form them in improvement techniques.
For the purposes of the project, we established that “a quick win is an improvement action that meets the following criteria:
- It can be implemented in a short term (no more than 1 month).
- It can improve the current performance level or not.
- Its definition and implementation require no more than a quick consideration.
- Its implementation does not invalidate the analysis.
- Neither the data nor the equipment analysis is invalidated.
- Its implementation does not require much planning as to have to wait to define all the improvements to be applied together in the Improvement stage”.
Stage 2. Prioritization of improvements
Once the problems for each stage of the process had been identified, we put them into a matrix and, as a team, we brainstormed quick or structural solutions for them.
We established criteria for the selection of the quick wins to apply and we gave them a weighted score according to their relevance to the project. In this case, the objectives were primarily related to cost reduction, productivity of the improvements, and customer value.
The formula, a weighted sum based on the established criteria, allowed us to evaluate the quick solutions and decide which quick wins to implement and which ones not.
Example of quick wins prioritization matrix
Stage 3. The implementation plan
Last but not least, we determined the how. We defined a responsible person for each quick win, a follow-up schedule, and change management actions to guarantee efforts were applied in an agile and coordinated way.
Among the actions carried out, we can highlight:
- Daily task tracking through the Kata of improvement: A standardized system was used to monitor progress in the workflow,
- Permanent removal of obstacles: The project was accompanied by a change management plan,
- Virtual workshops and collaborative work instances with a comprehensive perspective: In order to ensure a 100% involvement of the leading teams and sponsors, and achieve real teamwork.
The Change Management approach started with a deep analysis of the culture in order to identify and anticipate where we would find resistance and potential mistrust towards the project.
- We studied and anticipated the “ghosts” of the past (previous unsuccessful attempts at change) that we were facing
- We permanently involved the General Management, ensuring its constant visibility as a supporter to the project, and helping to guide the key messages that should be cascaded permanently
- We created a support and collaboration network between Sponsors and leaders
- We designed customized change plans
- We ensured that the organization constantly generated the resources that demonstrated that the project had full support for the deployment
The comprehensive Change Management plan focused on communication, training, recognition, coaching (individual and in groups) and, above all, the creation of a strong coalition of sponsors.
In addition, as another key action, the leaders of the improvement initiatives were trained in Change Management, so that they could facilitate the change and get support from those collaborators who had to implement the quick wins.
The coordinated action of improvement methodologies and Change Management tools allowed the resounding success of the project. We were able to:
- Implement more than 95% of a total of 154 quick wins in the span of 30 days
- The achieved quick wins impacted 7 critical processes
- The results had an impact on efficiency, cost reduction, and productivity
Transforming doesn’t happen overnight. It’s true. But it is also true that it is the small victories that lead us to the great transformations.
In the previous case, each quick win achieved -each small victory- showed a visible, fast and impactful result, thus motivating those who had to implement the improvements on a day-to-day basis.
It is worth highlighting the importance of applying change management methodologies. This allowed us to anticipate and mitigate resistance, and thus promote agile and rapid change.
The results obtained also contributed to building a culture of continuous improvement, the confidence that improvement is always possible and that it is worth working towards it. We are confident that these small milestones will only be the beginning of a transformation that has already begun.
IMCG´s associates involved in the project: Matías Gadda Thompson, Leonardo Szuldman, Martín Molteni, Carolina Sordelli, Macarena Bagacigalupo, Pablo Mendoza, and the team defined by the client.