Updated: Jun 28, 2020
Does your improvement process properly contend with uncertainty and risk?
Continuous improvement in the form of Deming's wheel (plan-do-check-act) has helped organizations in recent decades significantly improve their business and manufacturing processes. Traditional PDCA is an iterative process based on four (sometimes more) stages:
Plan: establish objectives and processes required to deliver the desired result
Do: perform the previously defined plan.
Check (study): data and results are gathered and evaluated against targeted goals, objectives, and outcomes.
Act (adjust): actions are identified to address non-conformities, issues, and opportunities for improvement.
Variations of this process exist and include: DMAIC, A3, Lean Improvement Kata, and others. Each one serves a slightly different purpose but what they have in common is that they focus on problems after they have manifested themselves. This makes continuous improvement a reactive process triggered by the presence of problems, non-conformance, or other issues.
Risk-based continuous improvement is a proactive process that helps you anticipate, plan, and act to make certain that outcomes are advanced in the presence of uncertainty. The focus is on anticipating problems before they become a reality and is triggered not by the presence of problems but but the presence of uncertainty.
Problem solving skills and capabilities used with traditional PDCA processes, for example root cause analysis, can also be used with risk-based continuous improvement. However, what makes the process proactive is the identification and assessment of uncertainty (the root cause of risk) along with the implementation of effective risk controls which are essential. It is the effectiveness of these processes that determine how well problems are prevented and opportunities are realized. It is with these that continuous improvement is most needed.
Risk-based continuous improvement proactively contends with uncertainty and its effects on goal-directed endeavors. It is triggered not by the presence of a problem but by the presence of uncertainty. It is applied to each process affected by uncertainty along with the processes that anticipate, assess, and treat risk (i.e. risk controls) to improve their effectiveness.