Problem solving is critical in the pharma industry to drive sustainable success and operational efficiencies. Dr. Shewhart and Dr. Deming believed that learning required content feedback for employees to improve a process over time. Deming’s thinking was derived from a philosophy book called Mind in the World Order by C. I. Lewis. Many problem solving methods find their roots from Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s “Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA)” learning cycle A key to success is understanding that a manager drives the problem solving process by coaching employees through the PDSC cycle to improve a process.
Process improvement isn’t an easy task. It needs to come from leadership. Delivering results can depend on how a manager define, communicate and implement a problem solving method. The sponsor’s role for process improvement has evolved over the years. A manager is now actively coaching a team through the problem solving steps instead of having someone else train that team.
Even today, many companies have the misconception that forming teams will automatically lead to improved performance. Frequently, managers do not understand why their teams are not achieving the desired results. Teams are not created to fix problems. Teams are created to understand the processes, requirements and variability. Management role is to create a system that supports a team to actually improve performance. Without management’s support a team will consistently fight against an organization culture. This causes employees to have resentment and frustration with management.
An employee’s role is to understand the “as built” process, then potential solutions can be explored. The most difficult steps with the continual improvement process is defining the problem and establishing the measurements. It is easy for anyone to list causes and solutions based on their perspectives. Managers need to help the employees learn by creating a measurement system that will allow a team to achieve meaningful solutions. Lasting productivity comes from deploying solutions through understanding how measurements can have an effect on a process.
Most of the responsibility for creating world class” performance falls upon the champion to develop, support and maintain a culture that allows employees to contribute new ideas. Continual process improvement always requires a two way street between the leadership and employees being aligned on how to solve problems. Some actions a champion take:
- Use and apply a structured problem solving method
- Prioritize key work processes needing improvement
- Create an effective measurement system (simplify as much as possible)
- Coach the team in how to use process improvement tools
- Encouraging the team to move forward
- Establish clear strategic direction
- Model actions consistent with a team strategy
- Set organizational norms of mutual trust and respect
- Build the competencies through an effective learning system