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James McNerney, former CEO of Boeing, once said, "Continuous improvement isn't about the things you do well—that's work. Continuous improvement is about removing the things that get in the way of your work. The headaches, the things that slow you down, that's what continuous improvement is all about." This succinctly summarises the ethos behind Rapid Improvement Event (RIE)—a potent tool in the era of Operational Excellence, offering the prospect of rapid, focused change and substantial Return on Investment (ROI).

The Power of Rapid Improvement Events

In essence, RIE is a short-term project with fast turnaround—emphasizing quick, effective change in a specific process area. While the concept might sound rather straightforward, the execution can be complex, involving broad participation from cross-functional teams and meticulous planning. Its success has been confirmed by McKinsey in a 2017 report, stating that companies employing RIEs have seen efficiency improvements of up to 60% within selected operational areas.

Planning a Successful RIE

Effective planning is essential for a successful RIE, so it is of paramount importance to clearly define the problem at hand and identify the team best equipped to solve it—a process known as Value Stream Mapping. The team typically comprises individuals closest to the process, enabling a deep dive into the challenges faced, fostering a sense of ownership, and cultivating an environment in which efficient, standardized processes can thrive.

Engaging in Active Problem-solving

One of the most notable features of RIEs is the active problem-solving. Instead of a top-down approach of change implementation, RIEs involve all team members in the problem-solving process, fostering a culture of continuous improvement. This form of inclusivity can be empowering and boosts morale, leading to greater levels of engagement and enthusiasm among employees.

Implementation and Sustainment

Once an RIE has been executed, a follow-up plan, known as an A3, should be developed to monitor the sustainability and effectiveness of the changes made. Implementing quick fixes only provides temporary relief from the issue at hand, while A3 Plans—rooted in Process Ownership, Standard Work and Visual Management—ultimately drives a culture of continuous improvement. PwC reported in a 2020 study that companies implementing RIEs followed by rigorous A3s saw a 35% increase in process efficiency in just three to six months.

Pillars for Success: Leadership and Culture

The successful enactment and sustainment of RIEs depend heavily on two factors: Leadership and Culture. Leaders must set the tone, demonstrating a deep commitment to continuous improvement. They need to create the space and provide the resources necessary for improvement. Complementing this, a culture of transparency, trust, and acceptance of failure as a path to learning plays a significant role. Without these, the effects of RIEs are likely to be temporary and superficial, eroding the hard-earned gains in Operational Excellence.

In summary, the potential of Rapid Improvement Events to foster efficiency and operational excellence in the corporate world is immense. By embracing this dynamic, collaborative tool with proper planning, engagement, and leadership, corporations can truly succeed in their pursuit of operational excellence—streamlining processes, enhancing efficiency, and improving overall monetary return. A method that exemplifies the concept of thinking globally, planning strategically, and acting locally—RIE casts a long shadow on the pathway to continuous improvement and Operational Excellence.


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