Session Report: Process Improvement

Jacqueline Ye Markus Salge Jason Jay
Figure 1 Jacqueline Ye Figure 2 Markus Salge Figure 3 Jason Jay

Parallel (150): Process Improvement, chaired by George Roth (Seaport C) included three papers:

Improving Maintenance Operation through Transformational Outsourcing , by Jacqueline Ye Abstract Paper

The Good, the Bad and the Mediocre: Creating Insightful Stories on Process Improvement , by Markus Salge Abstract Paper Supporting

From Continuous Improvement to Centralized Information: The Life and Times of a Systems Thinking Intervention , by Jason Jay, George Roth Abstract Paper

This session was attended by approximately 20 - 25 people. All of the speakers were energetic and articulate. The session was introduced and moderated by George Roth.

A factoid from the first paper: two-thirds of process improvement programs fail to achieve the sponsor’s expectations. In the first paper a significant issue was the change in management (new ownership) and the impact of a long duration for preparation in the success of the culture change in the organization. A cost plus environment pushed well into debt and the labor force was dependent upon increasing extrinsic rewards. The pay program was a major problem: “Consumption, the more you have the more you want,” summed up the economic issues of a jaded labor force. Net result a clean break in labor compensation to outsourcing, allowed the company to recover from steeply increasing and uncontrollable labor costs. Jacqueline Ye is a recent MIT graduate.

The second presentation compared organizational complexity to technical complexity in a process improvement model. It was a theoretical model that did not appear to have significant real world validity testing. However, the conclusion was that managers should spend more time on improving the organization aspects of the interactions. This reporter looks at this as confirmation of a communication and networking within the organization to increase performance by reducing friction in process flows. Marcus Salge is a student at Mannheim University.

Jason Jay System Dynamics Model showing how unequal rewards perpetuate conflicts

In the third presentation on an oil refinery required continuous improvement of its preventive maintenance processes. Workers previously worked on jobs that they wanted to without regard to the overall impact. The Manufacturing Game was selected as a method to help workers understand the impact of their decisions on the rest of the plant’s performance. However, the results were inconclusive as to the effectiveness of this type of training due to a variety of external factors that occurred simultaneously. This reporter would like to believe that the simulation helped the workers, even if in a minor way, to change their decision making process to contribute to better plant performance. The author’s charts and graphs (one is below) added insight into various aspects of the parameters being evaluated. Jason Jay is a student at MIT Sloan School.

The session concluded with some very pointed questions to the speakers about their assumptions and the future direction of their research. It was a useful session with 2 real world and 1 theoretical paper. Change management and process improvement should be considered as a regular topic of research moving forward, everything changes and there is a process to everything.


Michael D. Okrent