Process improvement can only be successful with smart and achievable goals, so answer these six questions to help you reach every milestone
Glenn Gooding

Glenn Gooding,  managing consultant at Renault-Nissan Consulting explains how you can create achievable process improvement goals.


Organisations that strive to continually improve and engage their workforce in philosophies such as Lean Six Sigma inevitably see successful results over time.


But consistent process improvement requires detailed planning and exceptional execution in order to make progress. That all starts with goal setting – a vital element for any business no matter what their size.


The following questions will help you set achievable goals so that your business can move forward along the continuous improvement path.

1. Where do you want to be?

Establishing goals is all about the end result. When it comes to the principles of continuous improvement or Lean Six Sigma, there are major goals such as ‘True North’ and there are smaller, more regular objectives along the way.


True North is the term we assign to the destination or the overall objective of your programme. The type of goal you are setting will depend on where you are on the continuous improvement journey, but deciding what you want to achieve is the first step.


2. Is your goal SMART?

The best way to set a goal is to follow the rules of SMART:


Specific: A clear, definitive and succinct idea of where you want to be. This should be documented in your overall continuous improvement road map  


Measurable: What does success look like? Are there metrics you can put in place to identify whether you have achieved your goal?


Achievable: Is your goal something that can be done and are there any potential blockers that could prevent you from getting to your end result?


Realistic: Can you realistically expect this objective to be achieved in your timeframe and with the resources that you have?


Timely: Can you achieve your goal within a timeframe that is acceptable for your organisation?


3. Who’s on your team?

Before embarking on any process improvement project, it’s important to ensure you have the skills, resources and enthusiasm within your organisation to help you move forward towards your goals. Any continuous improvement or Lean Six Sigma initiative is probably long-term, taking many months or years. For that reason you have to choose team members or employees who demonstrate commitment and dedication to tasks such as seeking out waste and finding ways to achieve excellence and work better.


Once you are certain you have the right team members to help you achieve your goals within your organisation, it’s time to assign leadership roles. Along the way, you will also need to continually train and educate team leaders on progress and any changes to your critical path. With Six Sigma, for example, there are different levels known as ‘Belts’, which can be obtained by different members of your team.


4. Are you communicating well?

To achieve any goal, communication between leaders and team members must be robust. You should have a clear road map in place that assigns roles to various people within your organisation or project. And each person should be aware of their goals and responsibilities. It’s also important that people are held to account when working towards objectives, which is just one reason why solid measurements are useful.


5. What’s your timeframe?

An essential element to any process improvement objective is managing time. In order to be successful and achieve your goals, you have to be clear about the deadline and any touchpoints or milestones that mark progress along the way. You will need to create a road map from concept to fruition, clearly selecting measurable goals and assigning areas of responsibility.


6. Is there room for (continuous) improvement?

Working on an improvement project is often long-term. You will set overall objectives that explain where you want your business to be in a set period of time, but it’s important to remember the premise of continuous process improvement is that things change. Make sure your create enough ‘room’ for iterations and allow processes to be agile and adaptable if your team, business or goals change.

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