Continuous Improvement Tools

Below is a summary about the tools DSHS uses:

5S - A step-by-step process used to increase workplace efficiency and effectiveness by promoting visual management, organization, standardization, and continuous improvement. 5S is a foundational element of Lean improvement work. It is also a concept that can easily be applied to your desk or workplace or a shared office space.

5 Whys -  A method of root-cause analysis that entails the progressive asking of "Why?" at least five times or until the root cause is established.

A3 - A one-page reporting format, named for the international paper size (11" x 17" in US sizes). It contains, on one page, critical information about an issue, such as description, cost, timing, data, planned solution, and planned resolution. There are three types of A3s used at DSHS:

  • Problem Solving A3 -  Modeled after the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, this A3 usually focuses on 8 steps to clarify the problem, current state, establish a target, do root cause analysis, brainstorm counter measures, develop an action plan, and establish check in points.
  • Status A3 -  An alternate to the conventional status report, providing status updates on a project or implementation plan, often times dash-boarding progress using red / yellow / green indicators.
  • Strategy / Proposal A3 - An effective format to outline background, current state, proposed strategy, and action plan to activate the strategy.

Fishbone Diagram -  Also called a cause and effect diagram or Ishikawa diagram, is a visualization tool for categorizing the potential causes of a problem in order to identify its root causes.

Huddles - A short, regularly occurring (daily, weekly, etc.) meeting held at the program or unit level usually at the beginning of the day. The huddle centers around 3 or 4 questions such as "What did you do yesterday?" "What are you doing today?", and "Where do you need help?"

Multi-voting -  A group decision-making technique used to reduce a long list of items to a manageable number by means of a structured series of votes. The result is a short list identifying what is important to the team. Use multi-voting whenever a brainstorming session has generated a list of items that is too extensive for all items to be addressed at once.

PICK Chart - A tool used to help organize, categorize, and identify the most useful, process improvement ideas. The acronym comes from the labels for each of the quadrants of the grid: Possible (easy, low payoff), Implement (easy, high payoff), Challenging (hard, high payoff), and Keep for Later (hard, low payoff).

Process Map -  A visual representation that outlines how the work is managed within a specific area.  Usually illustrates decision points and how the work flows, similar to a procedure manual, and provides detailed information showing person(s) involved, activities taken place and less focused on time.

Root Cause Analysis - A popular and often-used technique that helps people answer the question of why the problem occurred in the first place. Root Cause Analysis seeks to identify the origin of a problem. It uses a specific set of steps, with associated tools, to find the primary cause of the problem, so that you can: 1) Determine what happened; 2) Determine why it happened; 3) Figure out what to do to reduce the likelihood that it will happen again.

Value Stream Map - Refers to the activity of developing a high-level visual representation of the process flow involved in delivering a product or service (a "value stream") to customers. VSM events focus on identifying sources of non-value added activity (waste) and prioritizing future improvement activities.

  • Current State VSM - A value-stream map that depicts things as they currently exist within the value stream.
  • Future State VSM - A value-stream map that depicts an improved view of the value stream, which advances toward the ideal state.
  • Ideal State VSM - A value-stream map that depicts a value stream composed of only value-added activities.

Visual Management -  A business management technique employed in many places where information is communicated by using visual signals instead of texts or other written instructions. Visual control methods aim to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of a process by making the steps in that process more visible.

Waste - Any activity that uses resources but creates no value for the customer.   Typically classified in the following categories:  Transportation, Inventory, Over-processing, Motion, Overproduction, Defects, Underutilization of Employee Talents, and Waiting.