Team Close, time to hold the gains
Assuming that you have been running the team for 12 weeks, we are now in week 12 and it is time to close the team. I always recommend that you will aim to close the team at 12 weeks even though you are not ready. My thinking behind that is that if you have a target to close after 12 weeks we should try to close, and if we cannot we should learn from the reason why we did not close.
Whatever the reason could be, the objectives or the scope is too big, could not take the time or using people that went on vacation, had to change the team leader, or technical difficulties, or we could not agree on the team, whichever happened we should learn from that. However, let us assume that we are ready to close the team at 12 weeks. For a company, I always recommended that you create a closing checklist to ensure that every improvement team that you build follows the same approach. There are some key points to closing a team, these include:
For all phases, Basic Conditions, Improve and Innovate, the PDCA is relevant and the full PDCA cycle has to be worked through for a phase to be completed. Not all improvement teams will go through all three phases. You need to decide that when you start, whichever phase that you are in that you decided to close at has to have the PDCA steps closed before you can close the team.
A key part of closing a team is to make sure that we have standards, one point lessons, or standard operating procedures done. There also must be training for the team itself, an internal training matrix captures the training that should be done for any team. Also for the external people, the people who are now going to be effected by the new way of working that the team has implemented. So, a training matrix for internal and external people is needed. You will also need to have a performance indicator. The performance indicator could be the one that you have been using along the way for the team, and that indicators role is to say let us follow this indicator for 26 weeks is a good rule of thumb. It should stay within control limits, so if the indicator is within the control limits for 26 weeks we can consider the gains to be held and we do not need to keep following that KPI or performance indictor anymore.
When choosing the performance indictor, you will need to have some type of criteria. For example, if the performance indicator is outside of the control limit for 3 consecutive weeks. The team leader has to be called back and huddle up with the team again to understand what happened, and to try and understand why we do not hold the gains. What are the reasons and see if we can get back on track again.
Other than that, when you close the team you also have to consider auditing the new way of working that you implemented. Let’s say that you have created a new type of process it could be around a machine to clean, inspect, lubricate and tighten the equipment. You need to implement some type of CILT standard that can be used and a manager of that area, who is accountable of the work in that area, can audit to ensure that the standard is followed. If you are working in a business process or administration area of some sort you might want to consider other types of process standards, process reliability standards, where you would look at key components to the process, to ensure that the standard is being followed. Remember, that the line manager is the person that is accountable for the area or the process. They are the ones that should be auditing the process apart from following performance indicators.
It is recommended to have some type of visual system that controls the output of the team. What I mean by that is when the team is closed and the team board is taken down, you need to keep on following the performance indicators and following standards and so on. Therefore, it is recommended that you use a machine boards where you can keep documentations close to the machine area where you have performed your improvements, or a process board if you are working in the business process area. This machine board or process board can contain different types of information but they should contain the performance indicator, the criteria for calling back the team. The audits that are performed in the process, also an audit of the actual board and audit schedules and so on. Often one point lessons are on the same board together with any uncompleted tasks from the team, so they are controlled after the team is closed. It is recommended to try to close all outstanding tasks while the team is running, but sometimes we may run into situations where we cannot close everything. For example: we can have a maintenance task or an IT task or something that will take a bit more time, you might want to control that on a process or machine board.
Remember that when the team has achieved the target and you close the team, you have a chance to celebrate, discuss lessons learned and enjoy the fact that you achieved something good together. This will help you in the future to run teams and get people engaged, doing this it will mean you won’t need to put so much time and energy into the next project.
Because when it’s fun it’s easier for everyone, for you as a team leader but also for the team members. It’s important to ensure that the receiver of the new standards and the owner of the machine board and process board is established and that there is a hand off to that person when the team is closed
If you look at how much energy you need to put into any change, 20% of the energy is to find the problems and eradicate them, and 80% is toward all the gains so the closing and the delivery of the performance indicators is vital. The audits and so on are not to be taken lightly because this is where it is easiest to fail. The focus is gone from the improvement area where people have celebrated, where no one will follow up nor care if the standards that we are supposed to work towards are not happening. It only takes a couple of times where someone is breaking those standards without anybody reacting to it before old habits come back again. However, it is all about creating good processes, a good process of holding the gains will ensure that you do not fall back to the old behaviours and the closing part is key to hand over to that process.
Johan Majlov, CEO Lean Dimensions International