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Continuous Improvement Culture

⏤solve problems, optimize processes & capture new opportunities

Mindset & Tools for Global Excellence

To inspire a continuous improvement culture in an organization, the mindset and tools for improvement must be accessible, easily understood and frequently used at all levels. The Momentum 4-Step Solution simplifies and accelerates continuous improvement. Employees at all levels are engaged in pushing the “improvement flywheel” to solve problems, optimize processes and capture new opportunitiesbuilding and sustaining the momentum of global excellence.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”  - Albert Einstein

4-Step Solution

The 4-Step Solution is an intuitive approach to completing small incremental improvements, large breakthrough improvements and new opportunities. The 4-Step Solution is fully compliant with ISO 9001, Lean, Six Sigma DMAIC, PDCA, 8D and PMI PMBOK industry standards. The 4-Step Solution for improvement projects includes 4 Basic Improvement Steps to capture fundamental baseline knowledge and Supplemental Improvement Tools that are scalable to enhance problem-solving as needed.  Most importantly, improvements are sustained to assure ongoing excellence even as business environments change.


“Examples of improvement can include correction, corrective action, continual improvement,

breakthrough change, innovation and re-organization.”  - ISO 9001:2015



4 Basic Improvement Steps

The 4-Step Solution includes 4 basic improvement steps that capture fundamental baseline knowledge for any improvement project.




1. Problem / Process / Opportunity


Provide a clear and concise problem / process / opportunity statement. A clearly defined problem / process / opportunity statement is an essential starting point to an effective solution.

  • Define | The problem / process / opportunity statement is used to clearly define a problem, process or opportunity. This should include customer requirements (internal and external).

  • Measure | Supporting data to measure the impact of a problem, process or opportunity can be attached and viewed (e.g., voice of the customer, risk impact, financial impact, process map, capability assessment, Pareto chart). Leverage data from your organization's established enterprise reporting system to assure alignment with KPI's and leadership priorities​.​



2. Root Cause


Define the root cause of the problem. If the root cause is not readily apparent or there may be multiple root causes, consider using the Cause-and-Effect Analysis for in-depth root cause analysis to solve the problem. When there are several “possible root causes”, select the “actionable root causes” and assign the key tasks necessary to achieve a successful solution. Lean Analysis can be used for in-depth process analysis to reduce waste and improve process efficiency.



3. Key Action Items


Assign and complete the key action items necessary to address each actionable root cause. Improvement begins when action is taken. Continuous improvement is supported with a concise and effective action item management tool to assure visibility and accountabilityaccelerating improvements to achieve desired business results.


To expedite progress, action item due dates should be set on a "prompt and achievable" basis where the task owner considers what needs to be accomplished and how it can best be achieved based upon their other commitments (daily work, PTO, etc.).


​​4. Review Effectiveness


Review the effectiveness of actions taken. Verify that all required tasks were completed and effective in addressing each root cause to achieve a solution. Was the problem solved? Was the process optimized? Was the opportunity captured? As an option, SMART Goals can be used to define specific goals to be achieved and serve as the basis for determining effectiveness. Effectiveness can be readily sustained using Statistical Process Control (SPC), Quality Control Plan and/or Verify Sustained Date. Most importantly, improvements are verified effective and sustained to assure ongoing excellence even as business environments change.

Supplemental Improvement Toolsbuilt-in expert guidance

Continuous improvement requires learning and developing skills from many different sources and bodies of knowledgesuch as quality, six sigma, lean, project management, enterprise software and more. Momentum Supplemental Improvement Tools are used to enhance the ability to solve problems and capture opportunities. For each supplemental improvement tool, built-in expert guidance provides a starting point to apply the tool effectively, accelerate improvement and minimize the need for training. Supplemental improvement tools are accessible as a visible checklist for every projecthelping to guide selection of the "right tools for the job". Momentum Supplemental Improvement Tools are available to use as needed and include:

  • Cause-and-Effect Analysis​

  • Lean Analysis

  • Change Control

  • SMART Goals

  • Statistical Process Control (SPC)

  • Quality Control Plan

  • Verify Sustained​ Date


Cause-and-Effect Analysis

Your team of subject matter experts analyzes the issue (Gemba Walk, 5 Whys, Process Flow Diagrams). Use the below Cause-and-Effect Diagram (bullet list) to identify and document possible root cause(s). Select the highest priority "Actionable Root Cause(s)" to assign Tasks for Improvement.

  • 5M+E+D Manpower, Machine, Material, Method, Measurement, Environment and Design.



Lean Analysis

Utilize Lean tools to identify opportunities to reduce waste in the process (e.g., 8 Wastes, Poka-yoke mistake proofing, 5S, Value Stream Mapping, Business Process Automation Diagram). Select the highest priority Lean improvement opportunities to assign tasks for improvement.

  • 8 Sources of Waste​​ | DOWNTIME | DefectsOverproduction, Waiting, Not Utilizing, Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Excess Processing.

    • Defects | Activities or outputs that do not conform to customer requirements and must be scrapped or redone.​

    • Overproduction | Producing earlier or in greater quantities than what is required.

    • Waiting | Idle work-in-progress or people unable to perform work because they are waiting for something.

    • Not Utilizing | Failing to utilize the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) of individuals.

    • Transportation | Excess transport of products and materials within and between facilities.

    • Inventory | Excess supply in a process (items, materials, people).

    • Motion | People or outputs diverted out of the flow of the system.

    • Excess Processing | More work performed than what is required or duplicate work.

  • Poka-yoke Mistake Proofing​ Mistake proofing (poka-yoke) to make errors impossible or immediately detectable.

  • 5S​​ 5S to create a workplace suited for visual control. The 5S quality tool is derived from five Japanese terms beginning with the letter "S" used to create a workplace suited for visual control and lean production. The pillars of 5S are simple to learn and important to implement.​

    • Seiri "Sort" | To separate needed tools, parts, and instructions from unneeded materials and to remove the unneeded ones.

    • Seiton "Set in order" | To neatly arrange and identify parts and tools for ease of use.

    • Seiso "Shine" | To conduct a cleanup campaign.

    • Seiketsu "Standardize" | To conduct seiri, seiton, and seiso daily to maintain a workplace in perfect condition.

    • Shitsuke "Sustain" To form the habit of always following the first four S’s.

  • Value Stream Mapping​​ Value stream map to provide an overview of an entire process, starting and finishing at the customer, and analyzing what is required to meet customer needs (current and future state).

    • Determine the scope of your value stream map​.

    • Map the steps of the process.

    • Add inventory and wait times.

    • Draw information flow.

    • Create timeline.

    • Add a “Role Bar” (different color for each Role) to the VSM timeline to illustrate start/stop handoffs between Roles in each step of the workflow.

  • Business Process Automation Diagram​ (BPAD) A flowcharting technique that aligns customer requirements and terminology with business process (current and future state) to identify opportunities for software enhancement and process automation. This technique can be useful for defining strategy for new software implementations as well as improving upon existing implementations that are misaligned with customer needs and process best practice. Opportunities for single-source data entry and integration are highlighted to improve data integrity, share data, reduce data entry time and simplify process complexity.

    • Customer requirements, process steps​, roles, # of users per role, key data (input), # of transactions, workflow status, pain points.

    • Key Information Embellishments: Embellish with key information, as appropriate, to deliver a world-class business solution that avoids unnecessary complexity and achieves simplicity and effectiveness.

  • Bottleneck Impact Matrix (BIM) A Bottleneck Impact Matrix (BIM) is a visual tool to quickly identify and resolve bottlenecks in complex processes. A Bottleneck Impact Matrix combines concepts from Value Stream Mapping (VSM), Theory of Constraints (TOC) and 8 Sources of Waste (DOWNTIME). Bottlenecks in a process are visually depicted in an intuitive way that identifies opportunities to drive actionable improvements that alleviate/eliminate bottlenecks in a process.


Change Control

By definition, improvement cannot happen without change. For this reason, Change Control is integrated into Step 3 Tasks and should be applied to improvement projects exhibiting higher financial value, higher risk rating or multiple relevant interested parties that need to collaborate for smooth implementation. Momentum Change Control provides collaboration for relevant interested parties. Change control validation plans assure that appropriate process changes, documentation, approvals and training occur prior to implementationreducing risk and promoting buy-in for smoother changes.


In addition to improvement projects, the Change Control tool can be used to centrally manage change control enterprise-wide. It is recommended that an enterprise-wide Change Control Team be established to identify, approve and document appropriate change control prior to changing high value processes.




Some things are too important to be left to chance. SMART goals are useful when very specific results must be achieved.  SMART goals help to avoid misunderstandings and are especially useful when critical, high value projects are at stake. Successful achievement of SMART goals confirms that the solution was effective. SMART goals are integrated into Step 4 Effectiveness since the achievement of SMART goals represents an effective solution. If SMART goals are not specified, the default goal is to simply follow the 4 basic improvement steps to effectively address the root cause(s) and solve the problem.

  • SMART SpecificMeasurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-limited.


Statistical Process Control (SPC)

Define the statistical process control for sustaining improvements (control chart, inspection system stability monitoring, etc.).


Quality Control Plan

Define the quality control plan for sustaining improvements. The quality control plan is essentially a checklist of process steps and tasks required to make sure things get done right the first time and are sustained.



Verified Sustained Date

Verify sustained date allows setting a future date to verify that improvements are sustained. Verify sustained date is useful for sustaining critical processes, sustaining processes subject to drift (low Cpk) or when improvements cannot be immediately verified. Verify sustained date is essentially a strategic audit scheduled for a future date to assure that high value improvements and processes are sustained and continue to deliver high value.


The 4-Step Solution is an “Improvement Toolbox"

Artisans can create a culture of excellence, but they need the right tools to do their jobs effectivelyemployees have the same need for effective tools. With its 4 basic improvement steps and supplemental improvement tools, the 4-Step Solution serves as an “improvement toolbox” providing best practice problem solving that can be utilized by project leaders at all levels to consistently deliver effective solutions for small incremental improvements, large breakthrough improvements and new opportunities. By opening the same toolbox for each improvement project, a familiarity develops for using each tool. Of course, improvement professionals are free to use additional tools if desired. Supplemental improvement tools are accessible as a visible checklist for every projectguiding selection and use of the "right tools for the job". Employees at all levels gain proficiency at applying these improvement tools to build and sustain the momentum of excellence.



Create More Improvement Leaders⏤build momentum at all levels

The 4-Step Solution uses intuitive terminologypromoting better understanding at all levels with less reliance upon training. Continuous improvement skills and effort should not solely be relegated to the select few highly skilled problem-solving experts within an organizationbut should be accessible, understood and frequently used by process owners at all levels. Wider participation in continuous improvement at all levels leverages collective knowledge and creates more leaders that contribute and build upon the momentum of continuous improvement.

Sustain Excellence

Most importantly, improvements are verified effective and sustained to assure ongoing excellence even as business environments change.




Escalation Registerprovides leadership with visibility to take action on risks, constraints and bottlenecks

An Escalation Register provides leadership with visibility of risks, constraints and bottlenecks across an entire program or portfolio of open projects.  Escalation types include:

  • General Escalations: When an escalation impacts several projects (e.g., resource availability, project delays, budgetary issues).

  • Project-specific Escalations: When an escalation only impacts a single project (e.g., a subject matter expert is reassigned to a different role and leaves the project team).


An Escalation Register is a simple tool for leadership to take action, remove bottlenecks, accelerate project/program success and inspire continuous improvement culture.

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