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People, Processes, and Performance Tools pt. 2 Twitter Facebook Print E-mail
Written by Steven Peel   
Tuesday, 23 September 2008

This article is a follow up to “People, Processes, and Performance Tools Pt. 1,” published September 18, which details the six-phase process used at the Church to improve processes.

The following example is an illustration of how this approach is currently being successfully implemented. There is a project that the ICS Department is currently working on with the Family and Church History Department. During the PTS “identify” phase, it was determined that an integrated cataloging system (a tools solution) was needed in which multiple systems could communicate together to more effectively manage the operations in the department. Early on, a member of the process improvement team was brought in to review the department’s processes.

Process Improvement Team “Define” Stage

Investigating and defining issues and problems

During the process improvement phase of defining the process, considerable time was taken to identify current processes. Initially, this was accomplished through interviews with key personnel throughout the process. This included management, staff, and missionaries.

We also identified the vision, mission, and objectives of the Family and Church History Department. Some of these were identified as:

Family and Church History Department Vision:

  • Help members make and keep sacred covenants
  • Turn hearts
  • Experience our heritage

Collections Development, the initial operations group in the department, has a vision to keep the Church history collections relevant by ensuring that they contain:

  • Records that help ensure remembrance of the great things of God
  • Records that help preserve the revealed order of the kingdom of God
  • Records that support the creation of products and services that witness to and defend the truth of the Restoration of the gospel in this dispensation

We also identified core customers of the Family and Church History Department, which included priesthood leaders, family historians, parents, and students.

We additionally looked at the vision for the new integrated catalog being developed—which is to enable the effective submission, discovery, and delivery of Church information and historical assets worldwide.

Once current processes were identified, a meeting was set up that helped us identify key process problem areas within the collections area in the Family and Church History Department. We utilized a process improvement tool known as an “affinity diagram” to accomplish this. The results of the affinity diagram identified four core problem areas to focus on.

The group then split into smaller groups, each focusing on one of the four core problem areas identified, and completed a cause and effect diagram. The cause and effect diagram identified potential causes of each of these four problem areas.

In a follow-up session with a smaller core group from collections, we prioritized each of the causes listed to determine areas to focus on for improvement. We also identified that each of the causes listed fell into two general categories:

  1. A need for standard operating procedures (SOP's)
  2. A need for a formal training program for both staff and missionaries

It is important to note that both SOP’s and training are people issues that need to be addressed before implementing technology solutions.

Through further investigation, utilizing the “5 why’s” process improvement tool, we were able to determine that one reason there are not SOP’s or a formal training plan already in place is because some of the processes are not working effectively and the right processes have not been identified for implementation. It is interesting to note that this is a process issue that needs to be addressed before implementation of technology solutions.

It was determined that we would first look at the operations processes, then implement SOP’s, followed by a formal training program.

Process Improvement Team "Measure" Stage

Defining “as-is” state and identifying poor performance causal factors

During the measure stage, we looked specifically at the processes to determine process effectiveness by measuring key processes.

One of the processes measured was the process of determining if material contains sacred, private, or confidential information. It was determined that there is a backlog on information waiting to go through this process. This was a backlog on 1,933 items. Over the last year, there were 2,792 items cataloged or made available for customers to view

Over the last year, there were approximately 53,858 items requested from the archive. Of these items requested, approximately 14,513, or 27.1%, were requested by patrons. The rest were requests from staff, missionaries, or Church employees working with specific collections.

There are approximately 10,361,635 items cataloged and stored in the Church archive.

Process Improvement Team “Analyze” Stage

Analyze and develop a list of probable causal factors.

It was determined that some of the key process bottlenecks include:

  • Backlog of cagtaloging
  • Backlog on SPC review
  • Backlog on oral histories

Improvement on these three key areas will substantially improve process flow and make it possible to establish SOP’s and a training program.

Process Improvement Team “Improve” Stage

Develop a list of critical causal factors and develop strategy for improvement

The improvement team determined that the following would be used to address the three identified improvements needed:

  1. Backlog of cataloging – Move to a demand system in which items will not initially be cataloged. Items will be cataloged following requests from patrons or customers. If all customer requests have been cataloged, additional items will be cataloged based on priorities set by the department.

  2. Backlog on SPC review – A simplified SPC review based on an initial risk assessment of materials will be implemented to reduce the backlog. This is set to substantially reduce the backlog for SPC.

  3. Backlog on oral histories – Oral histories will be copied to CDs, indexed, and then made available in this format or electronically. Transcripts will not be completed unless requested by a customer.

We are currently in the process of approvals of these recommended improvements. Note that these improvements all fall under improvements of process. The SOP’s and training program that will follow fall under people improvements. Once these improvements are made, the ICS core project team will be able to implement the technology tools solution with better results than would have otherwise been achieved.

Once the "improve" stage is completed, the process improvement team will continue with the "implement" and "sustain" phases, which include the following:

  • Process Improvement Team Improve Stage - Baseline new process capability and develop controls for sustained performance
  • Process Improvement Team Implement Stage – Develop and launch implementation plan

Through this full process, the process improvement team will have:

  1. Identified and measured current processes
  2. Identified opportunities
  3. Determined if the opportunities are people, process, or technical tool opportunities
  4. Developed a strategy for improvement(s)
  5. Implemented the improvement(s)
  6. Set controls in place to sustain the gain

By identifying people, process, and tool opportunities in a balanced way, the chances for long-term sustained improvement by our customers is increased. The benefits are:

  • Reduced costs
  • Improved cycle time (fast and on time)
  • Improved quality
  • Reduced risk

These are benefits all organizations hope to achieve.

Steven Peel is a Business Process Manager for the Church.



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