Purpose and learning points:
Virtually all commissioners of interventions and projects are seeking quick wins, especially to reduce costs or improve service delivery. Strangely the best way to reduce costs is not to cut employment and the best way to create quick wins is not to clone a good idea from somewhere else. This item shows how sustainable quick wins provide fuel to interventions, enabling capacity and positive energy to move forward.
W. Edwards Deming used to say it takes five years to create a Continuously Improving organisation and that the pursuit of ‘instant pudding’ can be dangerous. Two other statements which were always difficult for me to resolve were, ‘never walk past a problem’ and ‘don’t meddle’. Thus ‘Quick wins’ needs to be sustainable differences in outcomes or inputs, which doesn’t harm an organisation, or has a relatively small but fully understood issues that can be accommodated.
Quick wins are extremely useful within the VT CPAD (Check Plan Appraise Do) cycle, in that they provide: some additional capacity for the review, positive energy that something good is happening and enables the organisation to become more ‘change comfortable’.
As stated above, we will often find these in the early days of check, and invariably find them in the initial workshop, where all representatives within a review meet together for the first time. It would be easy to assume that ‘quick wins’ are small beer within a review, so let’s discuss a few: Within a waste review we discovered that custom and practice for drivers was to start engines, carry out their daily safety checks, get their instructions and teams then drive out the depot, with engines on idle for up to 20 minutes, with around fifteen vehicles burning 8 litres an hour, that a lot of fuel a year, 15 x 8 x 1/3 x 260 x £1.30 = £13,520.
So when we were conducting a fleet review of a much bigger organisation, they had the engines running for even longer as the guys went for a cup of tea in the canteen first, and were using a staggering £175,000 worth of fuel each morning. They were all returning to the depot at the same time each evening, queuing every evening for fuel, due to a directive during the fuel crisis 15 years prior, wasting another £150,000 worth in the queue, prior to considering the lost productive time that 25 minutes queues cost, then we discovered that tea and lunch breaks were always taken with engines running…. Around £400,000 savings possible from a simple change to custom and practice!
A meeting rooms exercise arose from a completely different review, where we found getting rooms was difficult within their self-serve system. An easy to arrange monitoring showed that meeting rooms were generally used twice a day, once mid-morning, once mid-afternoon, large rooms frequently had only three people in them, and cancelled meetings still had the room assigned to them. Over-all the room usage was less than 12% of potential, in a council that was spending £10,000 a week on external bookings. A simple re-design was worth £6,000 savings per week, after creating one extra job, whose role was to monitor and nudge meetings to better times or more appropriate rooms.
An average initial workshop will provide over a hundred ideas to improve the service and around 17 quick-wins, those quick-wins enable a positive energy in the review, start to get the organisation ‘change-ready’, bring the managers closer to the workers, creating leverage for leadership to understand that something quite different is happening.
NOTE Visualising Transformation is a way of working that maximises the information to all people within the system, so as to be useful for their purposes. Enabling people to see what is happening and have knowledge as to how to use that information is at the heart of Lean and Systems Thinking.
VT acknowledges that everything is connected, no one idea is unique or independent of others, this is one of many planned ‘blogs’ to be released over the next couple of years. We would love to hear your thoughts, or to deal with requests via firstname.lastname@example.org