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Providing information, education, and training to build knowledge, develop skills, and change attitudes that will lead to increased independence, productivity, self determination, integration and inclusion (IPSII) for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

7. Quality: The Process Improvement Team and Plan-Do-Check-Act

A Process Improvement Team is a group of individuals who work well together and bring specific skills to the table to solve a problem. A Team should always include a customer or end user.

Bill Harreld:
What is a process improvement team is a team to go to work on the process. You need to make certain that we… have all of the people involved with that. The owner of the process. Someone is designated the owner. It's usually a management or leadership person that's in charge of the process. But then we add to that a team leader that helps to make certain it's there.

And there are four people who operate in a process on a day-to-day basis. There's typically a customer or… customer's representative, a supplier or supplier's representative. Those are individuals that are critical to a process improvement team.

Because we look at all the participants on our diagram and we want to make certain we have them or a representative for their organization there. So that we start laying out the steps, we've got people that can look at it and say, yes, this is the way it works, or no, it doesn't work that way, well, here's something we could improve, or here's something that goes wrong.

So those are the process improvement team. They also figure out what are the most important processes for a particular customer or for a particular service? You know, organizations do hundreds of processes, but it can often be that there are five or six that are really critical… critical path, as we often say, processes that we need to… analyze and improve.

Why should a business use these teams? Because those are the people that understand the process and can make the improvements… to improve customer satisfaction, to improve employee satisfaction, supplier satisfaction. And a big one is improved profitability. Very important…

Whether we like it or not, all organizations have some level of profitability. Oftentimes government organizations don't understand profitability until they get into the process evaluation. Then they see what the profitability amounts to.

They work together as a group. They often have a group meeting or it can be, if it's not physical, it can be virtual kinds of meetings, with this day and age where we have the technology available, there are many virtual meetings of… maybe a customer can't be there personally, but can be there virtually and so forth. And they work by just starting at the beginning and saying, "What's the process?" "What is the… customer need here?" And going all the steps necessary to provide the customer… what they're looking for.

They're facilitated by a team leader. A good facilitator. They don't necessarily have to be a quality expert to do it, but… typically it's a quality and process expert that teaches the team how to do it. It's learning by doing.

Plan-Do-Check-Act, as we call it, is utilized to improve processes. It's a tool approach in one way. The planning is you look at the process improvement that you choose to make, and in that you plan what that process change will be. What are you going to do differently?

Then you do it. Do a little sample trial run of that sort of thing… and then check is to check and see, well, now… did this change we made do what we expected it to do, or did it not? And once you've made that cycle and found that okay… this plan, this change that we're planning to do, did work as we wanted – now we can go ahead and change the process for all of our customers, for all of our utilization people that are working with that particular process.

It's because you don't want to go in and make changes to a process that are in error, that maybe didn't perform the way you expected it to. So it's testing. And… the check is the testing… to see if that process changes, functioning as it was expected to.

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This project was supported, in part by grant number 2001MNSCDD-03, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.

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