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Process Improvement - Up Close and Personal

The lessons of successful process improvement became personal when our water system failed on New Years Day!  It started with no water pressure, progressed to the need for a new water tank, escalated to a new pump for the well and went straight to crisis level when a leak in the line could not be found after digging a 4 foot deep trench from the well to the house.  You guessed it; the leak is under the house!


After evaluating the advice of several professionals and after calculating the cost of several solutions based on time, money, disruption and dismemberment of the house, we are now only two days away from drinkable water with every hopeful expectation of avoiding involuntary commitment to one of the state’s finest mental institutions! 


So what is the process improvement moral of this tragic story, well there are several:

  • The fix is rarely an isolated solution.  It is critical when striving to improve a process, a team, a department or even a product to think of the problem as a link in a long chain where each link must be examined and analyzed before you take action.   Examine the consequences of changing any one link in the process before you take action.
  •  Obvious solutions are not always the right or even the best solution.  In the tragic tale above, “putting in a new water tank” was the obvious solution but upon more careful testing, it was not the solution, in fact it was not a solution at all.
  •  Expert opinions, whether internal or external, will differ.  Get all the advice you can, analyze the options, do a Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA), and remember that the financial cost of the improvement should not be your only decision factor.
  •  Determine the “parallel process” that will keep your business running BEFORE you starting improving the broken process. (I personally recommend the Residence Inn Hotel as a parallel process for lack of water!)

In life and in business, we face anticipated and unexpected challenges.  In both situations, meeting the challenge requires creativity, leadership and patience.  Rash decisions are often isolated decisions that will neither solve the real problem nor keep you sane in the long run.  One last piece of advice.  Moving forward means not looking backward.  While in the midst of a crisis, save the recriminations about past decisions for later evaluation.   Asking things like “why the hell did we give up city water and move to the country?” will just get you closer to the Admitting Desk at the hospital!


Call Catalytic Management for help with your Process Improvement initiatives!  Our methodology is simple, effective and increases productivity!

Catalytic Management
67 Edgehill Road • Stow, MA 01775
Phone: 978-562-5001 • Web:

Catalytic Management specializes in business performance and growth consulting
for small and medium-sized companies in New England.
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