QBS: Activity 4 – Planning

in Quality as a Business Strategy (QBS)

by David M. Williams, Ph.D.

In a recent blog post (here), I shared how Associates in Process Improvement transformed Dr. Deming’s theory of Organizations Viewed as a Production System into a five-part approach known as Quality as a Business Strategy.

In this series, we’ll take a deeper look at each of the five activities including Purpose, Mission, Vision, and Beliefs; Organization Viewed as a System (includes measurement); System for Obtaining Information; Planning; and Managing Improvement Efforts.   

Activity 4 – Planning

An effective planning process requires preparation. In the previous post, a system of obtaining information was described. The intent is to collect a holistic set of data, convert it into summaries and displays that support learning and understanding, and package it into a pre-work document. 

The pre-work document is a key driver to an effective planning process. Leaders review the document in advance in preparation for the event. This grounds everyone in the data and begins the process of question-raising and sense-making. Prep work makes it possible for leaders to quickly move to discussion and action in the planning process.

Planning processes have two areas of focus: planning to operate and planning to improve

Planning to Operate – Most organizations can expect predictable changes in capacity or volume that need to be proactively addressed. Planning to operate involves forecasting needs and planning to meet the need so they do not distract from daily operations and improvement.

Planning to Improve –  There are two types of work to consider and Shewhart statistical process control charts are critical in making the distinction. 

  1. The first type are processes where the data shows it’s not predictable, and we need to act to search and remove the assignable cause, and then we can decide if it’s meeting our goal. 
  2. The second type are processes where the data shows the process is predictable, random data, but it’s not meeting our goal. Or, it’s meeting our goal and it’s not ambitious enough and we need a new aim. These processes will require process/systems change to get a different result. 

We also want to appreciate processes that are in control and meeting our goal and make sure there is a plan to sustain and manage those processes. 

Each scenario has a different action. Understanding the current state of these processes through Shewhart SPC charts aids you in making the right decision on how to act.

Figure. Sorting the work do be done (David M. Williams)

The planning process results in identifying strategic objectives and frequently culminates in a portfolio of projects to be chartered, staffed, and executed to meet desired aims. 

It’s essential to ensure the projects are supported with sufficient improvement capability. Be conservative here. Understand your capability and capacity to do the work. While there may be many opportunities to improve, selecting a vital few projects to begin with and complete in a shorter time frame is often better than chartering all. It also ensures you can see results within the bandwidth you have.

In Activity 5, I’ll look at managing improvement efforts.

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