April 28, 2021 | Mark Paradies

Secrets to Building an Effective/Efficient Improvement Team

What Improvement Team?

Many companies already have what they think is an improvement team. They have:

  • A Lean Implementation Team
  • A Six Sigma Program
  • A Quality Improvement Team
  • A Safety Improvement Team
  • An Asset Reliability Improvement Team
  • An Operational Excellence Team

Did I miss one or more? There are many teams that could be added to the list. But even with the short list above, the list is too long!

Do you notice something that these teams? That’s right. They are focused on different silos.


  • Focus on a particular kind of improvement (safety, quality, equipment reliability, …).
  • Use different types of tools.
  • Speak different languages (different program jargon).
  • Require completely different training.
  • Compete for similar resources.
  • Don’t cooperate to gain mutual benefits.
  • Don’t have a common set of measures.
  • All want management’s limited attention.

The crossed purposes of these programs drain management’s energy and require needless duplication of effort.

How can energy and effort be saved? By starting a single program that uses common tools, the same (or similar) training, and works together to create a high-performance organization.

How does this program work? Read on and find out.

Alignment: Similar Reasons for the Need to Improve

The main reason for any area (environment, safety, financial, reliability, …) to need improvement is that area once had acceptable (or even excellent) performance, but the area stood still. It didn’t improve and the competitors passed them by.

Let’s look at an example…


In the past, the quality of their product was good. It might not have been the industry leader, but it was competitive. They occasionally had customer complaints, late deliveries, parts out of specifications, rework, and failed to meet the customer’s schedule needs, but they were good at responding to trouble.

The company was running a tight ship because margins were declining due to overseas competition. Management was focused on cutting costs by reducing headcount, reducing training, and cutting other overhead costs. They weren’t investing in quality improvement and didn’t notice other companies that were implementing quality improvement and lean initiatives. They didn’t notice that the competitors’ quality (even the cheap, overseas competition) was improving and leaving them in the dust until they LOST THEIR BEST CUSTOMER.

The customer was nice. They gave the company a chance to try to win their business back. But the point they made was they could get better quality at a lower cost from the company’s competitors who always delivered on time.

What did they do? An emergency quality improvement program. Everyone would focus on getting the part out on time, on spec, and at the same cost.

But then it happened. The company had a piece of equipment catch on fire and explode. It shut down the entire plant. Several people were severely injured and one was killed. The OSHA regulators showed up to inspect and issue fines. One of the causes was the failure to perform maintenance on the equipment and another was a human error in responding to the failure that made the fire spread and caused the explosion.

The plant manager was transferred (and eventually left the company), the ops manager and maintenance manager were replaced, and there were major layoffs of staff as the damage was evaluated. Six months later the facility was permanently closed.

Why did this happen?

Poor performance. The industry had moved along to higher levels of:

  • quality,
  • equipment reliability,
  • human performance,
  • safety, and
  • operational excellence

The improvement they achieved saved them money that they could invest in further improvement efforts. The improvements allowed them to cut costs.

And this facility was “suddenly” in trouble and responded with crisis management focussed on the crisis of the day (improve quality).

To improve quality, safety, equipment reliability, and financial performance, their management needed to start improving BEFORE a crisis occurred. They needed to improve quality, safety, equipment reliability, environmental performance, production reliability, schedule performance, and cost control by investing in better equipment and human reliability. They needed to find the root causes of performance issues across all the different departments and become a high-performance, high-reliability organization. They needed to strategically invest in performance improvement that would yield improvement across the company (not just quality or finance/cost). They needed to focus on being one, two, or more steps ahead of the competition rather than being in crisis management mode – reacting to the latest crisis.

Human Reliability and Equipment Performance Improvement in a Single Program

When someone makes a mistake (a human error), they aren’t planning on causing:

  • An explosion
  • An equipment failure
  • A schedule slippage
  • A part out of specification
  • An environmental spill of hazardous chemicals

It’s just a mistake.

  • Tell them to be more careful!
  • Retrain them.
  • Write a procedure (or make it longer).
  • Or … Discipline them (or fire them) to set an example for everyone else.

Does that sound familiar?

And what if a piece of equipment breaks?

  • Get the maintenance team to fix it!
  • Replace it or replace the offending part.
  • Keep more replacement parts on hand to make repairs faster.
  • If it is a repeat failure (it’s failed 10, 20, or more times), maybe you should hire a consultant to make recommendations.

These are the approaches used at many facilities. These facilities have a crisis management or blame vision (for more about the crisis management and blame visions, read Book 1: TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Leadership Lessons).

You are living in the reactive mode. Reacting to failures one at a time. At a minimum, you should be using advanced root cause analysis that:

  • Uses a systematic process.
  • Guides people to the root causes of human errors and equipment failures.
  • Accurately finds the real, fixable root causes of incidents.
  • Helps people find effective corrective actions to stop repeat failures.
  • Can be used reactively but also can be used proactively.
  • Helps management understand what needs to be done for short and long-term improvement to be achieved.

What is advanced root cause analysis? TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis is Advanced Root Cause Analysis. It provides the fundamentals of root cause analysis plus more! It provides a systematic, guided process for incident investigation (no matter what kind of incident we are talking about – safety, quality, process safety, equipment failure, schedule slippage, operational errors, or unintentional environmental releases).

But you need to go beyond advanced root cause analysis. You need to develop a complete performance improvement program that is coordinated across the various silos of your organization.

A program that uses the same tools and language.

A program that management fully supports because it is integrated with their long-term improvement vision and provides a focus for their improvement attention.

Proactive Improvement

What is proactive improvement?

Here’s a video from three years ago that explain some of the proactive improvement topics…

Here is information about the book, TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis for Audits and Proactive Performance Improvement…

Or read this article for an idea of WHY reactive crisis management is more likely than proactive improvement:

If the reactive root cause analysis and the proactive tools (once again root cause analysis) can both use the same tools, implementing a single improvement program is much easier.

Reactive and Proactive Improvement Aligned Across Silos

When you go beyond reactive improvement in a single silo to a broad combined reactive/proactive program across your organization, you need an improvement team. That team needs to span all the silos in your organization.

Here is an example structure of an improvement team at a large manufacturing plant…

In this case, the Plant Manager is the team’s sponsor.

Reporting to the sponsor is the Improvement Team Leader (a full-time job).

Each of the participating departments has a representative that could be the department head or their designated representative that can make commitments for the department head. In this example the represented departments are:

  • Production
  • Maintenance
  • Quality
  • Health, Safety, and Environment
  • Finance
  • Human Resources

These are part-time jobs.

The participation by Production, Maintenance, Quality, and HSE reps seem obvious. But what are the roles of the Finance and Human Resources reps?

Finance helps develop the indicators/measures across all the programs. This includes money spent and money saved.

Human Resources is usually involved in some training and all disciplinary measures. Unwarranted discipline should be avoided and this should be part of the role of HR.

The Improvement Team Leader may have a small staff including:

  • A Trending Technician
  • Facilitators (full time, part-time, or both)
  • A Technical Writer
  • Admin/IT Support for Software

How is this improvement program implemented? That’s covered in Book 2:


TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Implementation – Changing the Way Your Company Solves Problems.

By forming a team and using the same root cause analysis tool across all the improvement efforts of your company or site, you:

  • Establish a single tool for everyone to be trained on.
  • Establish a single system for management to understand (including a single style of incident presentation for production issues, schedule and budget problems, safety incidents, quality issues, or equipment failure reports).
  • Make everyone communicate in the same language.
  • Establish a single framework for all you human performance and equipment failure analysis.
  • Make trending and reporting on improvement progress understandable and reliable.

It is amazing how much standardization can help an improvement initiative. And it is amazing how TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis can work across:

  • Human Performance Issues,
  • Quality Issues
  • Fatalities, Serious Safety Incidents, and Safety Precursor Incidents,
  • Equipment Failures,
  • Production Problems,
  • Budget Overruns, or
  • Schedule Slippages (just to name a few).

Imagine how much wasted improvement effort can be saved. Imagine how much easier it will be for management to stay informed and manage the improvement initiate.

Get started now!

FIRST, call 865-539-2139 or use the form HERE to schedule your executive briefing and initial Roadmap to Success discussion.

SECOND, get your entire improvement team (including the sponsor, the team leader, and all the team members) signed up for the 2021 Global TapRooT® Summit in Knoxville, TN, on June 16-18. Also, consider who needs what kind of training in the pre-Summit Courses held on June 14-15. Get more information about the pre-Summit Courses here:

Having the whole improvement team at the Summit will help establish many new ideas to improve performance (best practices from other industry leaders) and get everyone on track to implement your Roadmap to Success.

Executive Briefing / Roadmap to Success

Register your team by clicking on the button below.

Finally, you will be pleasantly surprised (or perhaps amazed) at how much improvement you can accomplish when management is aligned and supportive of an improvement Roadmap to Success that is supported by an advanced root cause analysis system – TapRooT®.

Don’t Wait!

NOW is the time to get your improvement program started and your improvement team aligned to STOP future crises before they happen.

Summit Team
Equipment Reliability / Equifactor®, Human Performance, Implementation
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