Tag Archives: IQPC

Communities of Practice – Behaviours and Benefits


By Matthew Loxton1

Why do people participate in Communities of Practice2 (CoP)?

An Applied Psychologist or a Knowledge Management person might tell you it is for the pure enjoyment and commitment to their identity as an expert in the field.  People want to contribute something to their field, to leave a mark, to better the practice, and to be seen in a positive light amongst their peers in that domain. They often self-identify in occupational terms, and part of their persona hinges on that occupational identity – The answer to “who am I?” is often coloured in occupational terms.

People offer discretionary participation and exchange of ideas motivated by intrinsic forces of their own personalities, and the behaviour of the company should be to support them, enable them, and in some cases to defer to them when it comes to their expertise.

Individual Benefits of Communities of Practice

Here are the most salient benefits as I see them:

  1. Occupational Security
    Gone are the days when an employer could offer guarantees of employment for life, but while the employer can’t offer job security anymore, being in active contact with a broad network of practitioners in their field, the individual is far more likely to find their next position through a contact than on their own. (Hudson 2010)
  2. Passion
    Let’s face it, some people will get out of bed at 4am, trek across bug-infested marshland, and endure mosquitoes, nasty sandwiches, and soggy clothing – just to catch a glimpse of a rare bird. They don’t do that because anyone paid them, but because they get a thrill out of it.
  3. Community
    Besides spotting that elusive Red-Belied Woodpecker, the next best (or even better) thing is to tell people who would understand why that got you to crouch for hours in discomfort bordering on agony. They get it – they know what it’s like and you don’t have to explain why, just where, when, and how. Not only do they understand, but their questions are passion-supportive, and their suggestions are net contributions.
  4. It’s Bigger than ME
    Besides what we know about a good life and a great career (passion, expertise, reward) (Collins 2001), and about fulfillment (mastery, autonomy, purpose) (Pink), what makes this transcendental is that it feels bigger than the individual – they get to feel a sense of being an integral part of something bigger than mere success, a sense of meaning.

Benefits of Communities of Practice as perceived by Senior Management

Let’s turn to the hard-nosed CFO/COO and explain why they should care and how this may hit EBITDA and make the investor smile?

Let’s count the ways:

  1. Succession Planning
    A CoP is a ready-made breeding ground for succession-planning and risk mitigation because it identifies and trains natural replacements should an expert leave or become unavailable. Not only will you know who the stand-ins are, but they will already have an idea of what the need is and have methods and ideas similar to the person they replace.
  2. Recruitment
    CoPs naturally extend out into the regions beyond the organization and not only would the CoP know who is out there, but also have a track record on them and be able to point the recruiters at a specific place to fish and specific people to approach. It reduces the time and cost of recruitment to mere pennies on the dollar and with far higher success rates.
  3. Retention
    People who are passionate about some aspect of their job tend to stay there and are likely to view fondly an employer that makes exercising their passion a reality, and see it as a good place to work – even when somebody flashes more money to entice them away. Once the cash side is “sufficient”, passion beats money almost every time.
  4. Engagement
    Engaged workers are productive workers, and nothing spells engagement quite like being passionate about one’s occupation. By creating social groups built around mutual passion for an occupation, CoPs drive engagement for as long as the firm’s mission and the occupation domain are aligned.
  5. Intellectual Capital
    CoPs generate intangible assets that can be replicated and reused, and which increase performance in the form of methods, processes, techniques, and case studies and results. On their own, these increase performance, but when turned into explicit knowledge can be licensed out or sold for hard cash (Like Kodak is interested in doing to raise cash). When hinted at publicly, they drive up market value and can push share-price up. They also siphon up knowledge created by other firms and create a net gain in intangible assets.
  6. Reduction of Waste
    CoPs produce standards, templates, and documentation that cut down on mistakes, reduce re-inventing the wheel, and force a reduction in variation.
  7. Quality
    Standardization and process improvement lead directly to improvements in product and service quality, and the relentless refinement native to a CoP drives out error and variance, and steadily increases quality.
  8. SPEED!
    Ever hear that the grapevine is faster than light? Well this is where the social network acts directly to the benefit of the organization.  “Hey look what I found” is faster by orders of magnitude than drafting a corporate memo, and gets to the right ears in the right jargon faster than a speeding bullet.
  9. Adaptive Capacity
    CoPs have a finger on the pulse of changes in their domain of excellence and are quick to notice developments in technology or practice, and this gives the firm a head-start on noticing changes in the business environment, and also the flexibility to make appropriate changes in good time.

Conclusion

Firms that do provide the infrastructure, scaffolding, and deference to grow CoPs will find themselves with more engaged and more productive staff, higher levels of Intangible Assets, and over and above lowered costs and increased revenues, could see a climb in the share price as the market puts value to the non-physical assets they have built.

Notes and references

  1. Matthew Loxton is an occasional guest blogger on topics related to Elisabeth Goodman’s blog site themes of process improvement, knowledge management and change management – key topics to support Elisabeth Goodman’s work at RiverRhee Consulting on enhancing team effectiveness. Matthew holds a master’s degree in Knowledge Management from the University of Canberra, and donates KM expertise to medical institutions
  2. A Community of Practice (CoP) is a dispersed group of people with a common interest in a subject who have decided to work together to share what they know, learn from each other and work collaboratively to achieve common goals.  Their involvement with each other is voluntary, although it may be driven by cascaded objectives, and they do not have the same management reporting line. A CoP requires active facilitation and support with a careful balance of formality / informality” definition taken from John Riddell‘s definition included in Elisabeth Goodman’s presentation: “Sustaining Effective Continuous Improvement In An Organisation: A Holistic View”, at IQPC Business Process Excellence in Pharmaceuticals, Biotech and Medical Devices, London, 7th April 2011 http://slidesha.re/h2vVhN
  3. Collins, J. (2001). Good to Great : Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t. New York, Harper Collins.
  4. Hudson (2010). Networking: Tapping into the Hidden Job Market.
  5. Pink, D. H. (2009) Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. Riverhead Hardcover

2nd Business Process Excellence for Pharmaceuticals, Biotech and Medical Devices (2 of 2)


Business Process Excellence for Pharmaceuticals, Biotech and Medical Devices, The Brewery, London, April 2011 (2 of 2)

John Riddell and Elisabeth Goodman, RiverRhee Consulting1

For part 1 of this blog see: 2nd Business Process Excellence for Pharmaceuticals, Biotech and Medical Devices (1 of 2) http://wp.me/pAUbH-40

Application to ‘other’ environments (1): biotech

Simon Orchard, Vice President Biotech Operations Europe, Pfizer, described applying Operational Excellence in a Biotech environment from facility and process design through to technology transfer and start-up.  In the design phase a key issue was to build in flow and takt, rather than gravitate to maximising volume.  The main opportunity was with simplification as the process.

In the technology transfer phase a structured process was used and efforts needed to be made to avoid a moving target.  Learning points were centred on building in the development of cleaning, taking time to plan including carrying out risk assessments to explore what could go wrong, and the difficulties of establishing a truly integrated cross-functional team from functional areas which were globally spread.

At start-up a problem was encountered with below specification results.  The team had the option of looking to increase results overall, or decrease the variation.  The latter was selected and a DMAIC approach followed, involving a key decision to suspend the plant start-up, i.e. get it right from the start and resolve it while focus and resource is there (and not moved onto the next project).

Application to ‘other’ environments (2): laboratories

Daniela Jansen and Donna Wall, Waters outlined how opportunities to lean documentation, data handling, sample preparation and QC decisions can reduce laboratory lead times.  The focus of their case study was to improve flow and eliminate non value adding steps through the introduction of data management in the interface between instruments and SAP/LIMS.  Manual data entry was addressed resulting in a major reduction in data input time and the quality of data improved as did its security and opportunity for manipulation.

The case study that Donna shared revealed how lab space had been saved.  The issue of each instrument having its own PC was addressed through the introduction of acquisition servers.  The lab team also analysed equipment utilisation over a 24 hour period and improved it through changing working practices.  When asked if there were other aspects (other than technology) Donna said that simple things need to be done and that metrics created an awareness that made things happen quicker.

Application to ‘other’ environments (3): clinical development

Nadine DeDecker, Director Strategic Business Improvement, Jansen R&D, reminded us that the second output of our industry is knowledge, and that value stream mapping can address information creation (as well as product creation).  Her case study showed how she started by addressing Phase 2 and 3 processes as the area with the most process improvement opportunities.  This led to standardisation of processes and the development of a common language, collaborative working, role-based training and, process improvement.  One of the biggest challenges though, is finding the best place to start.

Does process excellence limit innovation?

This was the title of a group discussion led by Craig Johnstone, Director Chemistry and Value Chain Leader, AstraZeneca.  An audience poll indicated that about 40% thought that Lean Sigma was pro-innovation, non-one thought that it killed innovation, and about 60% declined to vote many of them having experienced real pushback from their colleagues in R&D.  Craig’s suggestion, and the discussion that followed on the whole supported this, was that it was how Lean and Six Sigma were deployed that determined the extent of innovation.

Mitali Sharma, Senior Executive, Accenture, suggested that a combination of ‘Lean Innovation’ (simplifying and streamlining) and ‘Open Innovation’ (collaboration externally and engagement internally) were needed to change the Pharmaceutical R&D model and so enable R&D to not only “do the right projects”, but “to do them right”.

Keith Russell, Global Director Lean Six Sigma, AstraZeneca, described how ‘Design Thinking” can be applied to innovation as a process.  He discussed how this can be used to identify value for customers (internally or externally) to identify needs, in product design and programme design (through definition of requirements, features and strategy), and in programme execution (by focusing on core processes).  Keith’s approach, which is derived from QFD (Quality Function Deployment) recognises that R&D requires increased as well as decreased variation, and the exploitation of divergent thinking, in a controlled way.

The conference ended with Stephen Walker, Director, R&D Continuous Improvement Lead, Pfizer, and Charles Aubrey leading 2 respective focus groups on BPE in Drug Discovery, and in Manufacturing and Engineering.  They were useful opportunities to reflect further on points raised during the course of the 2 days.

Notes and further reading:

  1. RiverRhee Consulting enhances team effectiveness using process improvement, knowledge management and change management.  Follow the links to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting and about Elisabeth Goodman and John Riddell
  2. Ten Top Tips for Successful Lean and Six Sigma Implementation – RiverRhee Consulting – February 2011 http://wp.me/p1jPm6-D
  3. Operational Excellence and Knowledge Management in an R&D Laboratory Environment http://wp.me/pAUbH-3P

 


2nd Business Process Excellence for Pharmaceuticals, Biotech and Medical Devices (1 of 2)


Business Process Excellence for Pharmaceuticals, Biotech and Medical Devices, The Brewery, London, April 2011 (1 of 2)

John Riddell and Elisabeth Goodman, RiverRhee Consulting1

This was the second of IQPC’s specialist conferences on this theme, and as last time2, many of those questioned by the authors were finding it of real value for learning about the specific application of Lean and Six Sigma in their environment.

The conference extended over 2 days, with pre-conference workshops covering a range of topics3. With the conference themes including strategy, change management, relevance to non-manufacturing environments, and innovation, it was obvious from the start that deploying Business Process Excellence was going to be about more than Lean and Six Sigma tools.

Business Process Excellence is not just about the (Lean and Six Sigma) tools

Martin Conroy, Director, Global Lean Sigma at Medtronic, kicked off the conference by reflecting about the pains encountered when moving to a continuous improvement culture and what can be done about them. He argued that Lean is an apparently simple concept, but one that can be difficult to ‘nail’: it’s not enough to have the tools, but they need to be used intelligently (with know-how), together and, especially, with the right mindset.  He also emphasized that continuous improvement is neither a ‘bolt-on’ nor something to be done once (quickly) before moving onto the next initiative: it is something that requires careful planning and integration within the business.

Linking continuous improvement to organisational strategy

Many of the speakers referred to the importance of taking a holistic approach to implementing Lean and Six Sigma and of linking this to organisational goals.  See for example Elisabeth Goodman’s4 presentation that included case studies on this.  Tom Cochrane, Head of Security Operations and Process Development, Napp, described how their charter supports a continuous improvement culture although Lean and Six Sigma are never explicitly mentioned.  Instead, they take a systems approach to the whole production process, and use statistical process control as an intrinsic continuous improvement tool across all disciplines, with cross-functional teams operating from the QA department.

Damian Morgan, Senior Executive, Accenture described how industry pressures and the Pharmaceutical Industry’s own responses were resulting in slowing growth and margin pressures.  He suggested a consequential increased reliance on Operational Excellence (in the sense of Process Excellence) for winning.  Pharmaceutical companies need to be agile, to be operationally excellent, and have differentiated capability.  Indeed a cross sector study has shown that those who ‘win’ make investments in people and processes and, although they may look worse than their competitors who make draconian cuts in the short term, they recover more quickly and their recovery lasts longer (for more than 5 years).

Sauman Chakraborty, President and Global Head of Quality, HR & IT, described “Dr Reddy’s Way” which is a 4 strand strategic framework combining versions of EFQM’s Business Excellence Model, the Balanced Scorecard, Policy Deployment, and a Strategy and Tactics Logical Tree and underpinning everything that they do.

Top-down, middle-out or bottom-up implementation

Elisabeth Goodman also explored the pros and cons of taking a top-down, middle-out, or bottom-up approach.

This was a theme that came up in the first panel discussion.  Responses centred on “Yes, leadership can be sceptical” or “just don’t get it”, but can be brought round if they understand, or more importantly, tangibly see the benefits.  The bottom-up approach can be used to generate examples that demonstrate value and approaches.  Middle-out must not be forgotten, and here champions and change agents provide a key influence.

The theme also came up in the second panel discussion, when Karsten Benzing, Boehringer Ingelheim said that their most successful project were those driven top-down by leaders.  A further thought was that a bottom-up approach only has a finite life as “you can only do something for so long without your boss’s approval”.

Engaging leadership: senior management need to be involved

It was suggested in the second panel discussion of Day 1 that there are two levels of leadership support – passive – “I’ll let you do this”, and active – getting involved and showing commitment.

Celia Banks’ (R&D and Medical BT CI Lead, Pfizer) initial work in Pfizer was as a contractor engaged to prove the benefit of a Continuous Improvement programme to a sceptical leadership (they were unsure how a “manufacturing programme” could be applied in R&D).  Some pilot projects were carried out, ensuring that they tied in to a strategic imperative, and the necessity of top-down support identified.  Celia also recommended the use of Nemawashi with senior management i.e. introduce ideas step-by-step (and involving them in developing), and not going to them with a packaged solution.

Engaging staff: it’s about improving people’s lives at work

The first panel discussion on day 1 included the theme of engagement of staff.  Delegates and panellists discussed the importance of using simple language, giving recognition, and ensuring that people’s lives improve.  The word “humility” was used in the context of recognising that managers “are non-value-adding” and that their role should be to ask questions and facilitate and look for their people to provide answers.

Chris Christodoulou, Head, Laboratory Compliance, MedImmune came back to this theme in his presentation when he described how Operational Excellence is introduced to new employees during induction, and yellow belt training is available to everyone, with a target of >80% take-up.  There is an emphasis on communicating successes to show measurable result, and showcase projects including small yellow belt projects.  All projects are expected to deliver tangible benefits.

The underlying message of his various case studies (management of consumables in the lab, analytical process simplification, 5S of the fridge, templates for writing up, and eliminating duplicate HPLC testing ) was to “do simple projects to make peoples’ lives easier and happier, and make things work better.”

The value of training everyone: organise training so that it is utilised immediately

The second panel were asked about the value of training everyone.  Chris Christodoulou said that this would result in everyone talking the same language and plant seeds [i.e. it’s part of the culture change].  David Hampton, Rath & Strong, “controversially” pointed out that training itself is non-value adding and that green and black belt training needs to be integrated with a project and support.

Celia Banks described how specific training was devised for Continuous Improvement leads – on-demand, on-line, rather than as a block in a classroom.

Charles Aubrey, Vice President Performance Excellence, Anderson Pharmaceutical Packaging, echoed the approach of integrating training into application. Their programme was initiated through 4 days of training with the Leadership Team (to create understanding) then a pilot project was carried out in order to get buy-in.  From there a comprehensive programme developed with the aim of everyone in the organisation having a role e.g. Yellow belts objective was to improve the way they work (they defined the 8th of Ohno’s wastes as that of the human mind).

The role of black belts

Martin Conroy was the first to raise the role of black belts in organisations.  He referred to them as experts parachuted in “behind enemy lines” and described the challenges that they face the biggest one being the need for people to recognise that continuous improvement is not about these experts “doing things to or for you”.

A panel discussion later in the day came back to the role of black belts.  It was generally thought that they should be full-time so they are more practised in the basics and have a wider set of tools, but there were mixed views on where their expertise should be applied.  One panellist’s view was that black belts can be a “nuisance” e.g. in causing processes to be reworked unnecessarily e.g. Kanbans, to achieve standardisation across an organisation.

Using consultants: bring in someone to help kick-start programmes

There was agreement in the first panel discussion, that building internal capability is essential, but external involvement by consultants can bring in lessons learnt and play a role in mentoring senior management.

Panellists in the second discussion suggested that consultants were useful for transformational projects, although a further guarantee of the success of such projects was that they would necessarily involve senior leadership commitment.

Notes and further reading:

  1. RiverRhee Consulting enhances team effectiveness using process improvement, knowledge management and change management.  Follow the links to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting and about Elisabeth Goodman and John Riddell
  2. Business Process Excellence for Pharmaceuticals, Biotech & Medical Devices – April 2010 – Key Themes http://wp.me/pAUbH-2u
  3. John Riddell and Elisabeth Goodman ran a workshop entitled: “Communities of practice and other knowledge management techniques to implement and sustain continuous improvement”.  Please contact us if you would be interested in arranging a version of this workshop for you. http://slidesha.re/eoqKH5
  4. Elisabeth Goodman.  “Sustaining Effective Continuous Improvement In An Organisation: A Holistic View”. Presented at Business Process Excellence for Pharmaceuticals, Biotech and Medical Devices, The Brewery, London, April 2011 http://slidesha.re/h2vVhN

Operational Excellence and Knowledge Management in an R&D Laboratory Environment


Reflections from IQPC’s 6th Annual Smartlab Exchange, Berlin, February 2011

ELNs, LIMS, and LESs

IQPC kindly invited me to speak on Operational Excellence and Knowledge Management at this year’s Smartlab Exchange conference in Berlin.  Although I have been responsible for Biological Data Management and Laboratory Notebooks in an R&D environment during the course of my career, that was some time ago now, and the concept of electronic laboratory notebooks or ‘ELN’s was in its infancy, and so it was good to catch-up.

LIMS or Laboratory Information Management Systems on the other hand have been around somewhat longer so I was more familiar with these.  The application of ELNs and Laboratory Exchange Systems (LESs) in the GxP regulated Development environment is the newest of all, and both John Leonard (AstraZeneca) and Ken Rapp (VelQuest) helped give us a very good understanding of how this could (and does) work.

Getting comfortable with business language in an R&D Laboratory environment

The conference delegates were at various stages in their adoption of Knowledge Management and process improvement techniques (or Lean and Six Sigma), but had some good insights on effective change management, and so this was an interesting perspective during the course of the two and a half day programme.

Alan Foreman (Accenture) encouraged people to ‘get comfortable with business language’ such as business cases and productivity, ways to reduce cost and review operating models.  Patrick Jeufraux (Areva) gave us an interesting overview of how his organisation is bringing the support groups for process management, quality and business improvement closer together and integrating them into the business units for the various forms of renewable energy as an illustration of this.

The challenges of integration and data explosion

John Trigg (phaseFour Informatics) who chaired the conference and led one of the Think Tank sessions highlighted these 2 challenges for practitioners in the ELN and LIMS space.  We debated whether the lack of standards in Research in particular may have been a handicap in the development of IT applications, and whether increased outsourcing in the Pharmaceutical Industry e.g. through CROs (Contract Research Organisations) and Open Innovation might drive or accelerate the development of standards.

Cameron Neylon (Science and Technology Facilities Council) challenged us to ‘think like the web’.  Rather than trying to force diverse data and information into relatively inflexible databases, we should consider adopting Facebook, Amazon or Google Reader type models to aggregate the information, assuming that each item has its own unique URL.  He suggested that we could then build databases on the fly to manage questions, rather than the data.  He based his suggestions on Jon Udell’s blog Seven ways to think like the web

Workflow, process excellence and productivity in R&D Laboratories

Ken Rapp’s (VelQuest) and John Leonard’s (AstraZeneca) case studies beautifully illustrated how an understanding of processes and workflows in the lab, and an exploration of how they can be improved provide an excellent foundation for effective implementation of IT systems.  Working with lab scientists and QA they achieved increases in productivity, reductions in cycle time and lowering of compliance risks.

Chris Christodoulou (Medimmune) described how the R&D organisation in the UK and the US have adopted Operational Excellence as an enabler and a mindset for achieving Medimmune’s goals, and how Lean and Six Sigma tools such as 5S are helping them to ‘do things right first time’ and generally save time and money.

Change Management or effective implementation of ELN and LIMS

John Leonards’ case study of implementing electronic laboratory notebooks to facilitate technology transfer from Research scientists to Development Manufacturing illustrated how involving end-users to understand their issues and requirements, and then to pilot the proposed solution in an iterative way, together with engaging QA in solution development achieved 100% user acceptance as well as significant business benefits.  In a conversation with me afterwards he also described how starting with enthusiastic champions, peer influence and senior management support, together with a committed and flexible supplier also contributed to the original 100% user acceptance from Research scientists.

Gary Bouwman’s (Dow Chemical) Think Tank also drew out the many factors for success in implementation such as having clear business goals, measurable benefits, being aware of other factors that may affect implementation and the importance of having people on the team who really know the process.

Knowledge Management in the context of the R&D Laboratory

My fellow speaker, Mary Jensen (Baker Hughes), and Andrew Barendrecht (Innovation and Knowledge Consultant), between them expertly reviewed the key components for an effective KM ‘ecosystem’: people, process, content or information, technology and business or strategy (as well as compliance).  Mary Jensen gave a case study of how this applies in the oil and gas industry, whilst Andrew Barendrecht described how intelligent ‘cloud’ collaborations can operate using people in an Open Innovation and web 2.0 / web style framework.  Andrew indicated Steve Flynn’s ‘The Learning Layer’ as a good source of information for this approach.

Putting Operational Excellence, Knowledge Management and Change Management together in an R&D Laboratory context

My presentation “Applying knowledge management to operational excellence in a laboratory environment” discussed how Lean and Six Sigma could be applied to processes and the physical environment in the laboratory.  I picked up Mary Jensen’s knowledge ecosystem themes to show how Knowledge Management can contribute to the success of Operational Excellence, and also conclude with the Change Management related critical success factors for implementation.

 

Notes

  1. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting: enhancing team effectiveness using process improvement, knowledge management and change management.  Follow the links to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting, and about Elisabeth Goodman
  2. For an overview of electronic laboratory notebooks and how to implement them see John Trigg’s “Getting started with an Electronic Laboratory Notebook”, Scientific Computing World and phaseFour Informatics, 2011

 

Lean and Six Sigma in R&D and Service Delivery – opportunities and challenges


I’ve just finished reading Michael George’s “Lean and Six Sigma for Service”1, a very useful refresher on many of the key concepts of Lean and Six Sigma, as well as a useful perspective on the challenges and opportunities for applying the tools and methodologies in non-manufacturing environments.

Learning from books like these is always helpful to enrich long-term projects with clients such as RiverRhee Consulting’s current work with a Pharmaceutical Contract Research Organisation (CRO), for conference workshops and presentations such as those coming up with IQPC2,3, and for our growing portfolio of training courses involving Lean and Six Sigma for Library and Information professionals and others4!

Here are some key themes from the book which readers of this blog might find helpful.

Lean and Six Sigma can be applied to R&D and to Services.

Although this is now a fairly well accepted fact, Lean and Six Sigma practitioners will still find people reticent to adopt the methodologies and tools with the argument that they are not manufacturing, not producing ‘goods’ and that their work is not translatable to standardized processes.

George clearly demonstrates with case studies from such sectors as banking and hospitals that Lean and Six Sigma clearly can be applied to services, and that information and people are the key components in their processes.

The same is true in R&D, with perhaps more emphasis on information (and data and knowledge).  Indeed, in my days as an Information Manager, we often talked about information flow, and information mapping of both internal and external (published) information as inputs and outputs of the R&D process.

Just as in manufacturing, Lean and Six Sigma in services and R&D will help us to address:

  • Customer focus
  • Reduction or elimination of defects and wasted time, effort and money
  • Improving speed
  • Reducing complexity (more about this later)
  • All levels of organisations and processes

There are some very real challenges in applying Lean and Six Sigma to Services and R&D

Processes in a service or R&D environment, other than those required for legal, regulatory or safety reasons are much less visible than in manufacturing.  And yet once a discussion is opened on these, it’s likely that many variations on carrying out the same piece of work, and the opportunities and benefits of identifying and implementing best practices will be discovered.

There is a tradition of people valuing and perhaps being rewarded for their individual and creative problem solving approach, and a fear that standardizing ways of doing things might threaten that.  The value of standardizing approaches to free up creativity is something I’ve talked about elsewhere5.

The lack of (meaningful) data around service delivery and service and R&D process performance can be a real challenge, although for Library and Information professionals this is something they are increasingly conscious of – see for example a recent article in CILIP’s Gazette6.

‘Waste’ in services and R&D is also less tangible than in manufacturing, but certainly the experience of RiverRhee Consulting’s clients is that you only need to start paying attention to the way you are doing your work to discover lots of exciting opportunities for improvement!

How to not treat customers as inventory

This is a great concept for Services to consider with respect to their end-users, and for R&D (and Service) organisations to consider with their internal customers (or “process partners” as George suggests as alternative terminology).

I was reminded of the value of his suggested approach whilst queuing to go through passport control in the Paris Eurostar terminal.  It’s an approach that is also used (not always in an enjoyable way for us end-users) by Call Centres.

Rather than letting your customers (or their requests, issues etc.) pile up as ‘work in process’ and adversely affect the average processing time, George suggests using a triage system.  That way, the straight-forward customers e.g. those going through passport control with no visa issues, criminal records etc. can be waived through in less than a minute.  Specialised staff can be on-hand to deal with customers, requests or issues needing more detailed attention.

This is an approach that Medical Information Services for instance have chosen to adopt, with front-line staff (or generalists) dealing with more routine queries, and internal more specialised staff available to deal with the others.

The importance of addressing complexity

George’s description of why and how to address complexity is well worth reading in detail.  Put simply this is about recognizing that people and processes will be less productive if they are:

  1. Having to deal with many different ways of doing things
  2. Juggling too many things at once

So for instance if a Pharmaceutical R&D environment has many different assays, but only 20% of them are being used to meet 80% of their internal or external customer needs, then they need to reconsider the value (or return on investment) of that wider range of assays.  The challenge for their staff, and potentially their processes is the greater set-up time and learning needed to deal with less familiar assays.

Similarly, a Library and Information Service providing a wide range of choices to end-users, might want to set the expense and skills needed to maintain that choice against the number of customers using them and the value to them or any form of revenue generated.

Additionally, any form of standardization that can be introduced in the intermediate process steps involved to deliver the wider choice for internal and external customers, will cut down on the additional expertise, learning and time needed for routine activities, speed them up, and free people up to devote that time and expertise to being creative, innovative and contributing even more value to customers!

By the way, this is also something that Stephen Covey talks about7.

Achieving successful implementation of Lean and Six Sigma

George gives a very useful step-wise set of guidelines, amply illustrated by case studies on planning and preparing for implementation (readiness), making sure that all the key players are excited about and asking for the change (engagement), putting the infrastructure in place (mobilization), and actually implementing, monitoring and learning from the results (performance and control).

How to successfully implement change is a perennial challenge, in Service and R&D organisations as elsewhere.  It’s one that we touched on in our recent RiverRhee Consulting newsletter8, and it’s one that I will be speaking about at IQPC’s conference in April3.

Notes

  1. Lean and Six Sigma in Service, by Michael L George, McGraw-Hill, 2003
  2. Applying knowledge management to operational excellence in a laboratory environment,  Smart Lab Exchange, 28 February – 2 March, 2011, Marriott Hotel, Berlin http://www.smartlabexchange.com/Event.aspx?id=369178
  3. Business Process Excellence for Pharma, Biotech and Medical Devices, 6th-8th April 2011, London, UK http://www.bpe-pharma.com/Event.aspx?id=441160
  4. RiverRhee Consulting training programmehttp://www.riverrhee.com/Training-and-Development-110.html
  5. How Lean can bring real benefits to innovation in Pharmaceutical Research Six Sigma & Process Excellence IQ, 8th January 2010, http://www.sixsigmaiq.com/article.cfm?externalID=1720
  6. Penny Bailey.  Fighting cuts with facts and figures, Gazette, 30 September – 13 October 2010, p 10
  7. “Predictable results in unpredictable times”, by Stephen R. Covey, Bob Whitman and Breck England. FranklinCovey Publishing, 2009.
  8. Effectively engaging customers in change management and day-to-day work, RiverRhee Consulting Newsletter, December 2010 http://wp.me/p1jPm6-d

Business Process Excellence in Pharma, Biotech and Medical Devices – April 2010 – Key Themes


An integrated approach to Strategy, People, Process, Content and Technology is central to the success of business process improvement.

Elisabeth Goodman, Owner and Principal Consultant, RiverRhee Consulting, opened the conference with the importance of these themes in achieving Business Process Excellence (BPE).  She also came back to them in a later presentation (http://slidesha.re/aVhZso) describing the role that each has to play in implementing BPE as a cultural change.  These turned out to be the central themes of the conference.

Business process improvement initiatives will be more effective if integrated with organisational strategy.

Pat O’Sullivan, VP and General Manager, Genzyme, gave an excellent account of how Genzyme deliberately chose Lean in 2008 as a key component of their new vision, strategic plan, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), key enablers and initiatives.  They chose Lean as a methodology that would enable them to fully engage and mobilize the whole organisation, and so achieve individuals’ and the organisation’s potential.  Their goal was to reduce the cost of production by one third, via new ways of working, by 2012.  They are well on track to achieving that.

Gerald Bradley, Chairman, Sigma, reminded us of the importance of defining anticipated benefits when introducing change at the organisational level, as well as at the portfolio or project level. He gave us an in-depth approach of how we could achieve that, through benefits realization management and also how to tie individual improvement opportunities back to organisational strategy.

Business process excellence will not be achieved if people are not engaged.

Dawood Dassu, R&D Global MBB, AstraZeneca, and Derek Hill, Continuous Improvement Specialist, Pfizer (supported by David Hampton, VP at Rath & Strong), gave us excellent overviews of the approaches they have been taking to engage people in an R&D rather than a manufacturing context.  Dawood Dassu described roll out in the Discovery part of R&D, in Chemical Compound handling and in Lead Optimisation to the point that all R&D sites have now deployed Lean, and benefits are being seen through the whole R&D value chain.  Derek Hill described how Yellow Belt training has been really effective in changing mindsets as well as in getting people engaged.

Yolande Vanhove, Vice President, Business Excellence, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, described how HR can play a pivotal role in enabling engagement through their role in recruitment and performance reviews.

Many of the presenters reiterated the challenges and importance of ensuring that leadership is fully engaged and committed.  Mike Serena, Managing Director and Partner for Pharmaceuticals & Medicines, TBM Consulting, put this across strongly.  Those involved in business process improvement need to be zealots (the ‘Z’ in Kaizen), and should not start unless the company is ready, committed, and prepare to address the consequences when opportunities for improvement and challenges are identified.

It’s all about process!

Examination of business processes is of course key to process improvement!  However, the process of implementing business process improvement itself is a key consideration.  Yolande Vanhove gave us a very useful overview of her 4 Phase approach to implementation: stabilize processes, optimise flow, focus on pull, integrate with suppliers and customers. She and her team assess and support this approach on a site-by-site basis.

David Everitt-Newton, Director of Operational Excellence & Master Black Belt, Carefusion, reminded us of the need to focus on design excellence, as well as process improvement, and of how we can more effectively listen to the customer as we look to develop excellence as a habit.  Bill McIntyre, Six Sigma Training Director, BSI Group, also reminded us to consider internal customers: it may be both easier and more productive to focus on these when people are further removed from their external customers (e.g. patients and health care providers).

Content: we need to use the data and information from our metrics and documents.

Tom Cochrane, Business Process Development Manager, Napp Pharmaceuticals, and Peter Lodge, Advanced Manufacturing Consultant reminded us of how essential metrics are for process improvement, and of how powerful they can be both in developing our understanding of our processes, and in demonstrating success.  Likewise, there is no point in spending lots of time on developing documents such as FMEA (Failure Mode Effect Analysis), if we do not then reference and use them as living documents.

Technology can help us.

Although there was little explicit mention of the role of technology, we had some powerful illustrations of how it can help with visual dashboards or monitoring of data e.g. though Mike Serena’s description of plasma / touch screens and wireless Andon lights immediately outside lab areas, and an escalating series of alerts to managers’ Blackberry phones if anomalies are not being addressed.

Closing thoughts:  Lean and Six Sigma can provide opportunities beyond the obvious, but the timing has to be right.

Process improvement can engender creativity and innovation.

Craig Johnstone, Value Chain Leader, CV&GI, AstraZeneca, gave a well-researched and thoughtful account to counteract popular misconceptions of process improvement being ‘anti-innovative’.  Instead, he suggests that processes are there to enable people to add value; the removal of waste surfaces new problems and so acts as a stimulus for new ideas; standardization is only today’s best: tomorrow needs to be better.

Look for the right opportunities, at the right time.

John Pedersen, Vice President, NNE Pharmaplan reminded us, through his ‘garbage can’ model, that the acceptance of new ideas, or new ways of working are often dependent on the right people being in place to respond to these, at the right time.

The ripple and buffalo effects, chocolate cakes and windsurfing!

Graeme Moody, Team Leader, Lean Sigma Black Belt, CV&GI, used a few analogies in his presentation!  The ‘ripple’ effect describes how people ask to get involved in Lean and Six Sigma projects once they see others succeed, and the shift in attitude towards the importance of data.  The ‘buffalo’ effect suggests that once one, perhaps less critical, process has been improved it becomes easier to improve another that may be more in the path of the ‘stampede’.  Similarly, an R&D organisation is ‘like a chocolate cake’!  It may be easier to tackle more robust layers at the base of the cake first: such as secondary processes, before working up through primary processes, projects, portfolios, and the soft icing on the top: disease strategy.

As for windsurfing, Graeme suggests that the moment we are all working towards is when we have stopped falling into the water, achieved perfect balance, clipped our harness onto the sail, and can be carried along weightlessly by the wind in a perfect harmony of man, machine and environment!