3 Simple Tools to Manage Your CI & OPEX Programs

Minitab Blog Editor | 3/14/2023

Topics: Continuous Improvement, Minitab Workspace, Minitab Engage

Behind every successful continuous improvement initiative are tools that help organizations formalize their processes, exceed customer expectations, and measure success. Whether you’re just getting started with a simple initiative, or a more complex project, Minitab Engage is the easy-to-use solution for you.  

In this blog post, we’ll briefly cover the importance of using the right CI tools for process improvement, along with 3 simple tools for success.  

It’s no secret that some project managers spend a lot of their time on manual work. According to Forrester’s Total Economic Impact Study, managers spend ~10 hours per month setting up projects, 4 hours managing emails, and 6 hours reviewing projects. Luckily, Engage helps project managers by templatizing and automating the process of creating a new project. It also has the most comprehensive, pre-built forms, smart tools, and project roadmaps specifically designed for CI/OPEX professionals.  

Using the Right CI Tool 

Many times, senior leadership believes that generalist software is enough to get the job done. In reality, companies are losing money by not having the right tool to support their teams and their initiatives. Although choosing the right tool depends on your role, we'll cover the tools that all departments can utilize for their CI programs. Let’s dive in!  

Tool 1: Process Map 

A process map, sometimes called a flow chart, visually maps out all the steps and activities as they flow through a process or a workflow. It helps you model your process, understand and communicate the relationship between inputs and outputs, identify key decision points, and uncover rework loops.  

CI Tools Blog_ProcessMap

Process maps answer the following questions:  

  • Which areas of the process show the greatest opportunity for improvement?
  • For a specific project, where does the process start and end?
  • What are the inputs and outputs of each step in the process?
  • Which steps have a direct impact on customer requirements?
  • Can you simplify, combine, or eliminate steps in the process? 

Minitab Workspace and Minitab Engage can help you put these tools into action. Both of our platforms offer easy-to-use tools for continuous improvement and operational excellence. To take it a step further, Engage makes it easy to construct high-level or detailed flow charts, and there’s also functionality to assign variables to each shape and then share them with other tools that you’re using in Engage. In addition, the inputs and outputs are tracked behind the scenes, so your process maps can easily be linked to any of our other 100+ tools available on both platforms. 

      Want to learn more about process maps?  

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Tool 2: Fishbone Diagram 

A Fishbone diagram, also known as Ishikawa or a Cause and Effect (C&E) diagram, takes brainstorming to the next level by exploring the impact or effect you want to achieve, and understanding the causes of it. It’s a visual way to look at cause and effect by displaying the problem or effect. Possible contributing causes are listed on the smaller “bones” under various cause categories. On a fishbone diagram, the central problem, or effect, is on the far right. Affinities, which are categories of causes, branch from the spine of the central effect. The brainstormed causes branch from the affinities. 

CI Tools Blog_Fishbone
A Fishbone answers the following questions. 

  • What are the potential causes for a particular type of defect?
  • What are the process inputs that contribute to variation in the process output? 
Our fishbone diagrams are simple to use: in just two clicks, you can have an entire fishbone outline right at your fingertips. One of the best things about our diagrams is that if you don't like the location of an attribute or cause, you can drag and drop it where you need it to be. It’s that simple.  

Tool 3: Project Charter  

A project charter is a document that outlines a project in a clear, concise manner. Usually designed with high-level management in mind, the charter contains the scope, objectives and participants in a project, so anyone can quickly understand the concept of a project. Project charters should also delineate roles and responsibilities, including stakeholders if necessary, while also outlining some of the goals and deadlines on the project. 

Ultimately, the project charter addresses the following questions in any project: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? 

CI Tools Blog_Project Charter
Although brief, a project charter is often also a formal document based on a statement of work (SoW) for an agreed upon business need that is usually established at the start of the project. Ideally, a project charter would be developed during the planning phases of the project when all the pieces of the project are being pulled together. After the project is ready to go, the project charter would go through for final approval by stakeholders. 

  Below are some questions to help with your problem statement and project scope: 

  • What problem am I trying to solve?
  • Is my problem tightly focused on one problem or issue affecting a single process, location, or service?
  • Does my project have a proven correlation to customer needs?
  • What are the potential benefits of my project?
  • Can I complete this project within a reasonable time frame?
  • Do I have the organizational resources and support I need to complete this project? 

Once you’re confident that you have a well-defined problem statement, a well-scoped project, and your organization’s commitment to provide necessary resources, you can proceed with choosing your project-based methodology. 


                                                                         Want to learn more about methodologies? Learn More
We’ve only highlighted a few improvement tools that are widely used across all departments and organizations. Choose the tools that best align with your role and goals of your improvement initiative. Luckily, Minitab Engage is a platform built on improvements.   

Ready to get started with these tools?  Talk to Minitab