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UNC School of Government

Process Improvement: Fixing Problems

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In all organizations we face problems. Our processes may take too long or fail to meet timeliness goals. We may have errors or mistakes that cause our results to be less than we like or require rework. We may be less efficient at producing the results we want. But knowing we want to fix or improve our processes and doing so is not always easy. Research shows the failure rate of change projects may be high. We have decision and informational biases that can make it hard for us to see our way to improvement. We lack an appreciation for systems and variation and instead blame people for failures.

Lots of improvement methods have been offered to help raise results. Recent approaches such as Lean and Six Sigma or older ways such as TQM held promise. But the training around these approaches often required too much training, were designed for manufacturing, were costly, or too complicated.

In this one-day workshop we’ll take a different approach by teaching and demonstrating a small set of simple tools that you can start using right away to elevate your efforts to solve problems and improve process performance. We’ll cover a variety of techniques that you can employ to better focus your efforts on those leverage points that increase your chance of effecting real change. Participants will practice with data using Excel to help them sharpen their analysis to see these leverage points. We’ll practice a set of methods for looking at your organization’s services to get at root causes, map processes and look for waste in efforts to remove barriers to improvement.

The workshop will be a mix of explanations of the various techniques, practice on computers where data can be brought to bear, and group exercises that can raise your ability to solve problems with others. Participants are strongly encouraged to bring along a laptop so that they can participate in the data exercises. Instructions will also be provided for downloading a trial copy of some add-in software for Excel on a demonstration basis that may be helpful.


Lydian Altman works with and across various public sector organizations to diagnose, design, develop, and deliver leadership programs and services for public officials through the School’s Center for Public Leadership and Governance. Since she joined the School in 1999, her work has included cons...
Dale Roenigk joined the School of Government in 2005 and took over the directorship of the North Carolina benchmarking project in 2006. Prior to that, he worked for the State of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services doing program evaluation and quality monitoring for mental healt...
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