Module 1 – SLP
INTRODUCTION OF OPM, PRODUCTS, AND PRODUCTIVITY
The fundamental reference for all four SLP assignments is the Department of Defense Continuous Process Improvement Transformation Guidebook. You should acquaint yourself with its contents before beginning the first SLP, refer to it throughout the course, and cite relevant portions as you prepare each SLP assignment.
The Google online dictionary defines the noun “process” as, “A series of actions or steps taken to achieve a particular end.” The Business Dictionary (Webfinance, 2017a) gives a more specific definition: “A sequence of interdependent and linked procedures which, at every stage, consume one or more resources (employee time, energy, machines, money) to convert inputs (data, material, parts, etc.) into outputs. These outputs then serve as inputs for the next stage until a known goal or end result is reached.”
Deciding what belongs and what doesn’t belong to a particular process can be challenging. A common cliché states that “Everything is connected to everything else.” Here’s an example. Buying a cup of coffee at Starbucks is connected to:
- Making paper products (the cup)
- Making paper
- The pulpwood industry
- Forest management
- Climate and climate change
- The coffee industry
- Production of coffee beans
- International trade agreements
- Electricity production (for roasting and grinding beans)
We could spin the list out indefinitely; electricity production, for example, is related to the production of fossil fuels, which in turn is affected by the political stability of the Gulf states, etc. But the further afield we go, the less relevance there is to that cup of coffee.
As the Webfinance (2017a) definition implies, any process consists of subprocesses, each of which can be considered a process in its own right. Staying with the coffee example:
- “Selling hot beverages” is a process within “Running a Starbucks franchise.”
- “Selling coffee products” is a process within “Selling hot beverages.”
- “Making a macchiato” is a process within “Selling coffee products.”
Even greater levels of detail could be specified. For example, “Filling a cup” could be considered as a discrete process, consisting of taking a cup from a dispenser, placing it under the espresso machine, loading the machine with coffee, starting the machine, waiting, removing the cup from under the machine, and passing it to the server. Some coffee products may require additional steps, such as foaming milk with steam.
The first task in Continuous Process Improvement is to identify the process. We must decide exactly what, for our purposes, is part of the process, and what is not. This decision is arbitrary. Here are some examples.
- The shift manager at Starbucks wants to make the coffee-serving process more efficient, but she’s not interested in the larger process of managing the franchise.
- A records clerk at a medical clinic wants to in-process new patients more efficiently, but he’s not involved in patient management beyond that point.
- An industrial engineer wants to assemble auto engines more efficiently, but he doesn’t care about the efficiency of the processes used to manufacture the crankshafts, blocks, valves, camshafts, spark plugs, and so forth.
- A political functionary, working from a list, wants to get people to a demonstration, but she isn’t concerned with either compiling or maintaining the list.
As we’ve implied, every process takes place in a larger context (we could also say environment), which provides the resources, inputs, and outputs. The context for each of the items above would be:
- A Starbucks franchise.
- A medical clinic.
- An auto assembly line.
- A political organization.
Identifying the process within its context consists of identifying the specific resources allocated to that process, its inputs, and its outputs.
SLP Assignment: Process Identification
Think of a specific process you’re familiar with. The process should be sufficiently important to merit improvement, and also sufficiently complex to offer room for improvement. Filling a coffee cup, for example, could be considered a process, and may be important, but it’s so simple that it’s difficult to see how it could be improved. On the other hand; running an aircraft repair facility is a process within the larger process of running an Air Force Wing, and while it’s definitely important, it would be too complex for this SLP.
Any process is embedded in a context. This is the organization which provides its resources, its inputs, and either consumes or distributes its output.
Before going further, please read all of the SLP assignments, to make sure you don’t do everything at once. That would result in an overly long paper, which despite its length, wouldn’t have sufficient details or adequate explanations. For this SLP, the specific tasks are:
- Describe an organization you’re familiar with. Ideally, you’re either working for this organization, or have in the recent past. The description should be detailed enough to support the second task, which is to:
- Describe a specific process that takes place within the organization. As noted above, the process should be important enough, and complex enough, to meet the needs of all four SLP assignments. The process description should include, in as much detail as possible,
- what the process does,
- the resources dedicated to the process by the organization,
- the inputs consumed by the process, and
- the outputs produced by the process.
- What sort of improvement could be made in the process? It’s not important to be specific, since Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) envisions incremental changes that take place over an extended period of time. All that’s required is a general statement, such as “make easier,” “reduce error rate,” or “increase efficiency with respect to the (labor/materials/time) required.”
Bear in mind that resources, inputs, and outputs may consist of materials, products, or services, or any combination thereof.
SLP Assignment Expectations
- There are no page limits. Write what you need to write, neither more nor less. Make each sentence count! (Having said that; it’s unlikely that one page would be enough, and very likely that eight pages would be too much.)
- Ensure that your answer reflects your detailed understanding of the theory and techniques taught in this module.
- References and citations are required. This requirement can be satisfied by citing the module Home page, and (for the SLP) the DOD CPI Guidebook.
- Follow the instructions in the Writing Style Guide.