6 Steps for Planning Improvement Resources

Hurry up and wait a sec

“Hey, can you go implement sustainable improvement real quick?”

The pressure is immediately there to hurry up and get started without really thinking through resources.  At most companies, people in roles just like yours struggle with supporting, leading or adding value to teams intended to sustain improvement through Operational Excellence (OpEx). 

Before diving in too deep, it’s important to make sure you’re starting off on the right foot.  You’ll know you’re ready to begin planning your resources if you have:

 Now that you are certain what you’re resourcing is contributing to company goals and strategies, let’s dive into what factors are important when resourcing.


1. Consider your Approach to Planning

The advice on resourcing when on a budget is “Work smarter, not harder.”  You’ve heard it before and likely rolled your eyes thinking: "That sounds nice but let’s get real, we have a lot to do and we need experts." So it’s time to hire more people, right? Not necessarily.

We don’t immediately know what or how many resources you will need, but here is what we do know:

Getting the resource model right is fundamental to the success of OpEx within an organization.

The OpEx resources who are teaching and applying the methods must be fully capable to learn and perform in those roles, otherwise, they'll lose credibility.

It’s tempting to jump to bringing in new resources, but consider this: OpEx is not just another project to resource, so we need to think about it differently. OpEx is a mindset to embed in your organization.


2. Identify the Skills and Competencies that You Need

Let’s make it easy – we aren’t necessarily talking about the quantity of resources here, we're talking about skills you need within your team and across the company in order to meet your OpEx goals. The types of skills you need depend directly on your scope.  Simply put, scope = vision + strategy + budget + approach.  If your scope is not clear then go back and tighten up those inputs. 

You don’t have to guess what competencies you need.  Let your OpEx scope and positioning spell it out for you. 


3. Tap into Current Employees

The good news is that, while you may feel that you are starting from scratch, you are actually surrounded by most of the skills and competencies that you need in order to be successful – you just have to know what to look for and where to look. No this doesn’t mean you assign more work to already swamped people.  This means your search for skills and passion within your current employees. 

Companies are drowning their great employees under non-value-added work.  I guarantee that you have people in your company that is bursting with great ideas, saturated with applicable experience, and have been waiting for the gift of time in order to focus on improving where they work. Unleash them!

Once employees are aligned with work they are interested in that directly impacts their co-workers, you will find that the improvement train is hard to stop. Reach out to the leaders at your company locations and ask them whom you can work with at their site to help with OpEx.  

Alignment between the OpEx lead and Operations lead is crucial to open the doorway to tap into current employees' potential. 

If your improvement strategy is aligned across the business then each location leader should have the same goals.  They will need to be contributing to the scope of OpEx and you just gave them their first step.

I’ve been to many company locations where we find hidden gems -

> The Inventory Manager... that was an integral part of a 5S team at their previous job> The Fork Truck Driver... that is already Lean Certified and highly ambitious> The Night Shift Supervisor... that is slowly but surely driving a culture change

You have people out there, so get the leadership support to involve those employees! THAT is how you embed improvement – empower the workforce that everyone already knows, respects, and trusts.


4. Bring in New Resources to Fill Voids

Now you know exactly what skills are missing from available resources.  You can fill in the missing pieces in your OpEx resource plan.  Most of the resources that you find within current employees will be supplemental support.  They already have a primary job and their leaders must make a concerted effort to engage them. 

Based on your OpEx scope, do you have a need for direct resources?  This might include people with a background in applying or facilitating OpEx principles. For example, some companies like to have a full-time OpEx resource at every location who reports to an overall OpEx program manager.

Now instead of saying “I think we need more people,” you can confidently propose a resource model that's supported by skills and roles you already have while identifying exactly what you still need.  This leaves you with a more manageable list of "missing pieces" for your OpEx Resource puzzle.

It's not enough to simply have the correct resources.

Once you have identified direct and indirect resources, you have to set them up for success.  It's imperative that those resourced to OpEx have support from the company and their leadership to ensure their contributions are impactful. In order for them to feel empowered, they must feel like they are “allowed” to add value and “capable” of doing so. 


5. Give employees permission to improve

The leaders must be prepared to let their employees spend quality time on OpEx.  Once you give them permission, give them the tools they need, where and when they need them.  Make sure your plan includes training leadership in how to empower employees.

We can’t just tell our employees to make a visual board really quickly before they go home because we are “doing OpEx.”  Instead, get them a board and markers, get them the necessary training, and plan for some time away from the area they work in if needed.

If your team doesn’t have the tools they need, then they'll be frustrated that they aren't fully able to contribute.

Think about it this way - Have you ever been in your office and the internet goes out?  What happens?  One by one people start appearing in the hallways, looking for answers, talking about how it’s hard to do their work, trying to answer emails on their smartphones instead.  Some may even leave early to go work at home because they don’t feel equipped to do their work in the office.  This one thing that you need to do your job well, isn’t available.  How quickly would you become frustrated? 


6. Play "improvement matchmaker"

As much as possible, align OpEx related work to tasks the employees are already doing.  For example, a Safety Engineer or Quality Leader is already expected to help the site meet certain standards.  That’s their job, so utilize them to help build standards across the company.

A Maintenance Manager will have a strong interest in addressing planned vs unplanned work.  We don’t expect a six sigma expert to be comfortable assessing gaps in the culture and coaching leaders, so that needs to be aligned with someone that has skills and interest in interpersonal behaviours. Also, don’t assign a project that requires statistical analysis to a learning and development coach when that is work that clearly needs a six sigma green or black belt.

Someone new to the company is usually tasked to learn all of the processes.  This might seem overwhelming to them but this is a perfect opportunity to turn that role into an OpEx role.  They can be tasked to identify and writing standards which will not only help them to learn the new processes but now they have a secondary outcome of helping with OpEx.  They will be more engaged in the work, feel at ease to be asking so many questions when new, and will immediately feel like they are adding value.


"But I'm not seeing results!"

So, what if you are doing everything right? The vision is aligned, leaders are on board with strategy, the scope is clear and you are resourced to perfection.  But you still aren’t reaching your desired results, the business isn’t improving and the metrics you defined aren’t going in the right direction.  What’s wrong?  Always check back to your original intent.

If you don’t know your OpEx expectations and positioning, then you won’t get there.  If you know the expectations but aren’t aligned with resourcing then you will struggle.  If you are aligned with how OpEx is supposed to drive impact AND you have resources aligned to it, and you’re still not driving impact, then there is likely a problem with the approach.

If your resources are struggling, you will hear common phrases like “That’s not my job”, “I’m too busy with my real job”, “I don’t have time”, "I’m not interested” , etc.

These all result from:

  1. The new work not being aligned to their skillset
  2. The new work is not adding value
  3. The employees have not been empowered
  4. Leadership is not bought in
  5. The strategies are misaligned
  6. The employees are not able nor willing to learn

Companies that are successful in embedding improvement into an organization are not only OK with editing as they go but they expect and plan for it.  They resource their companies with leaders that are used to change and can embrace it because as change leaders, they understand that it produces a lot of feelings, questions, discussions and results.

 Want to dig a little deeper into planning your OpEx resources?


Talk with an EON Opex expert to learn more

About the author

EON Team

The EON Platform team works tirelessly to write content that provides valuable, actionable insights.