Those Who Facilitate Improvement Workshops... and the Mistakes They Make.

During this past May, Sheilah O'Brien published a very useful and practical book entitled Facilitating Rapid Process Improvement Workshops: The Self-Study Guide for Lean Leaders. The intent of the book is to help professionals who feel they are not truly gaining the full results of improvement initiatives and kaizen events. In the book, Sheilah speaks to the facilitator through coaching notes and actual workshop documents and techniques so the reader can fully understand how greater results are achieved. 

When I spoke with Sheilah last week about her book, I asked her: "What are the common mistakes facilitators make when overseeing rapid process improvement (RPI) workshops?" Here is her complete answer:

The common mistakes of facilitators of RPI workshops are:

1. Not understanding the facilitator role before you start. The RPI team is made up of workers who know about the problem to be analyzed.  They are dedicated. Facilitate with respect and inclusion. By passing on lessons and what you know to the team, you are working your way out of a job. 

“Team, please look at this flipchart. Do any of you want to change or add to them? Does everyone agree?” 

The facilitator's role should be to get the exercise started. Once it gets going, the volunteer facilitator (from the team) can carry it to its fruition. 

The facilitator lets the RPI team have their lead. The team knew what to do next.  

2. Not assuring that there is a monitoring system in place after the RPI ends: 

The end of the RPI means a shift in roles.  You, as the facilitator, no longer facilitate the workshop. Now you take on an advisory role to the process sponsor and responsible managers on how to track the implementation of improvements.

3. Not knowing that you need to keep two steps ahead of the team:

The facilitator, proud of the development of an improved process with all its steps, forgets about all the process supports (to those steps) that need to be improved too, such as forms, materials for the job, etc. 

The facilitator gets midway into the workshop and realizes he/she does not have a mechanism “to pull it all together”-- the risk is the team’s good work can go missing.

4. The facilitator hasn’t considered the “what if’s?”:

What if the organization doesn’t have data available? 

What if no one is available to take the team through the workplace (i.e., GEMBA)? 

What if you discover there is a backlog?  

What if there are many "products" that come out of the process?  There isn’t time to flowchart them all. 

What do you think about Sheilah's perspective on common mistakes facilitators make? Do you see these same mistakes in your organization? Are there others that are not listed here that you feel are common?