Process improvement programs can be intimidating to start. Long term solutions rarely mean a quick fix. It can help to provide a tangible event to show how these improvements can make everyday work better. Rapid development of internal expertise can help accomplish this overarching goal. Most important, it helps to build the necessary, critical mass to push a process or a continuous improvement culture throughout the organization. While it is not the best fit for every organization, it has often proven very effective and is worth consideration.
This rapid development is also called the I Do – We Do – You Do Approach. In a nutshell, here is how it works: It traditionally starts with multiple weeks of training at the beginning of the project work and typically takes four to six months for completion. The principle behind this approach is the truism “learn by doing.” The approach begins with either traditional classroom training (taking one or more weeks) or a brief strategy overview (taking perhaps ½ day) to define current state, improvement objective, project scope, etc. As implied by the name, three phases follow this kickoff:
Phase I: “I do”
Here, the expert Process Improvement practitioner (from either inside or outside the company) serves the primary role in leading a team, while those in training are primarily observers. The practitioner takes the lead role in facilitation and guides the counterpart’s team through all the project’s steps, from inception to successful implementation. The counterpart acts primarily as a “shadow.” They observe, learn, and become knowledgeable and more comfortable with process improvement tools.
Phase II: “We do”
In this phase the roles are reversed from Phase I. The Process Improvement practitioner becomes the shadow while the counterpart is now thrust into the lead role. Though in the shadow the practitioner is actively working to ensure the project’s success by meeting with the new team leader one-on-one, anticipating problems, and helping work through barriers. Part of the practitioner’s role at this point is to ensure that the counterpart is viewed in the lead role at all times, whether it be facilitating discussions, problem solving, assigning team roles, etc. The practitioner watches for unplanned occurrences and any barriers to the project’s success that the new lead might not be thoroughly prepared to address.
Phase III: “You do”
This phase is a replication of Phase II except the practitioner is no longer acting as a shadow and may not even be onsite. The new team leader is flying solo, so to speak, and is now prepared to lead a new project and deploy the necessary process / continuous improvement tools.
At the conclusion of this rapid development approach, the nearly trained team leader has significant real-world experience in the specific environment of the workplace and will have gained a deeper understanding of cost reduction opportunities and other potential improvements. It is a positive first step toward a cultural shift to continuous improvement, and it provides the organization with real, practical benefits along the way.