Achieve rapid results with performance improvement projects

Male and female employees walking around the shop floor of a manufacturing environment
Key takeaways
  • A performance improvement project is a team’s concerted effort to eliminate major waste in the organization
  • An improvement project has the potential to deliver rapid results that build excitement and increase momentum on a continuous improvement journey
  • 8 steps to conducting a successful performance improvement project
20 April 2023 – Are you interested in removing waste in your operations environment? This blog answers some key questions to get you started with a performance improvement project to address a specific pain point and deliver rapid results.

What are performance improvement projects?

Once teams have identified major loss areas through a loss and waste analysis, an action plan is needed to address these losses or pain points. It may be possible to eliminate or reduce some losses through day-to-day problem-solving and through the implementation of other best practices such as asset care. However, some wastes will require a concerted effort by a focused project team. For these wastes, specific performance improvement projects (PIPs) need to be launched.

Each PIP requires a project sponsor, i.e., a senior manager, to scope it properly and ensure that the expected financial benefits are realized. A team and project leader then work together to resolve the problem and implement a solution.


Download this step-by-step infographic to learn more about launching successful PIPs.


What are the key criteria for selecting performance improvement projects?

PIPs should have the following criteria:

  • They should be aligned to the business improvement strategy and business priorities
  • There is a gap between the current situation and the ideal situation, i.e., a problem exists
  • The problem or waste is big enough to justify a rigorous effort to solve it
  • The problem can be described in clear and concise terms
  • Both the cause of the problem and its solution are unclear

The key principles for selecting PIPs are:

  • Meaningful – they should address a major waste which is crucial to the organization’s improvement strategy
  • Manageable – a project team should be able to solve the problem within a limited time period which depends how the PIPs are scoped


What are the benefits of improvement projects?

PIPs can offer numerous benefits, for example:

  • eliminating waste within a specific area of your business
  • delivering rapid results such as reduced costs
  • building excitement, and engaging and empowering employees
  • enhancing teamwork, innovation and problem-solving capabilities
  • increasing momentum on your continuous improvement journey
  • laying the foundation for an organizational culture shift


Download the how-to guide Driving employee engagement on the CI journey to keep your people committed to your continuous improvement vision.

Download the guide


What are examples of performance improvement projects?

Here are some examples of the types of problems you could address with PIPs:

  • Inventory reduction
  • Setup time reduction
  • Lead time reduction
  • Improving the layout of a work area
  • Productivity improvement, e.g., materials handling, equipment efficiency
  • Quality defect reduction


8 steps to conducting a successful performance improvement project

These 8 steps will guide the process:


Review the business improvement strategy to confirm the major improvement objectives for the organization.
Conduct a loss and waste analysis to identify major performance improvement opportunities.
Senior management prioritizes and selects several improvement projects that align to the improvement strategy and can be effectively resourced.
Senior management assigns project sponsors and ensures they understand the PIP principles and selection criteria.
Ask the project sponsors, along with the project leader, to scope and define the improvement projects with a project charter.
Ensure the project is formally chartered and all steps are tracked to completion.
Apply structured problem-solving in the project team.
Manage the improvement project with a weekly governance process led by senior management.


What should go into a project charter?

The project sponsor and project leader scope the improvement project using a project charter.

The project charter clearly defines the problem and outlines the PIP’s goals, scope, timing, milestones, and team roles and responsibilities. It keeps the team focused and ensures they understand all the requirements of the PIP, and what they are trying to accomplish.


Build problem-solving skills within the project team

Achieving improvement is basically about solving a problem. Build competence and confidence by enhancing team members’ structured problem-solving capabilities:

  • Assess current problem-solving skills
  • Appoint a team to design relevant training programs to address any gaps
  • Train team members in and follow a structured process such as DMAIC
  • Incorporate new knowledge into day-to-day processes and practices, such as during daily production reviews and leader standard work


Download the how-to guide How to use a problem-solving A3 report to identify and eliminate problems quickly and effectively.

Download the guide


Manage the performance improvement project

To ensure the success of your PIP, set up a weekly governance forum for project managers to report progress, share learnings and request assistance if needed from senior management.

The governance process should form part of the leader standard work of senior management, project sponsors and project leaders.


How do I measure the success of the improvement project?

If your PIP was successful, you should be able to say “yes” to the following:

  • Improvement results are achieved within the defined timeline​
  • Results are sustained for at least 12 months


Why do some improvement projects fail?

Here are some common reasons why a PIP doesn’t resolve the problem or the solution isn’t sustained:

  • No clear prioritization process for PIP selection
  • PIP teams/leaders aren’t given enough time to work on the project​
  • PIP leaders don’t follow a standard methodology (steps are not documented or steps are skipped)​
  • The PIP is not well defined with a clear problem statement​, a measurable improvement goal​, a defined timeline to achieve the goal, and a flight plan/glide path to achieve the goal​
  • No formal weekly governance process to keep the PIP on track to achieve the improvement goal​
  • The “process owner” is not part of the PIP team​
  • No formal PIP sponsor who is accountable to delivering the improvement goal​

An operations environment demands continuous improvement and adaptation to keep up with changing market conditions. Performance improvement projects that focus on removing major waste in your operation will help to drive organizational effectiveness that keeps you competitive in your industry.


Contact us and find out how you can achieve rapid performance improvement in just 12 weeks.

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About Mary Williamson

Mary Williamson, VP of Operations, Competitive Capabilities International (CCi), Americas has 35 years of manufacturing experience in CI, quality, production operations and manufacturing development, and has held various leadership positions at SABMiller, Kimberly-Clark, Quaker Oats, United Signature Foods and Miller Coors. She has been a senior consultant and key account manager at CCi for over 11 years and supports numerous North and South American key account managers that represent clients at over 300 sites.