Sustain & Standardize


After investing a time and effort improving the process, you want to sustain the gains and ensure the process does not revert back to the way it was done in the past.

In this lesson, we'll review the Sustain & Share Plan and provide an overview of the importance of standardization.


Sustaining the gains - actions or steps taken to standardize or mistake-proof processes and/or results of the project to make sure the change sticks! 

After working on a project for week or months, many project teams dissolve as soon as they've implemented an improvement. Do not fall into this trap. Stay committed to your project until you have verified that the improvement will last. We've seen excellent projects unravel because the project team did not have a robust sustainment plan.

You need a plan to continually measure your Impacted Metric for a period of time. And you need to know what to do if the process reverts back to the "way we've always done it" or the improvement isn't as significant as you predicted.

In the Sustainment Plan you’ll identify:

* Impacted metric (from your project plan)
* Project goal (from your project plan)
* Frequency of measurement – how frequently you are going to re-measure your metric based on the frequency your process occurs. This may be hourly, daily, weekly or monthly. If something starts going wrong, you want to be able to quickly identify and analyze the issue.
* Who measures – define the person responsible for collecting and analyzing the data.
* Corrective actions – the actions that can be taken if the metrics indicates that the improvements are not being sustained.

Utilize dashboards to track the metric identified in the project charter to track the project.

Establish controls or standard to mistake-proof your process. You want to prevent errors and prevent process from reverting back to the old way of doing business.

It's not always possible or financially feasible to truly mistake-proof the process, so you can consider using checklists, control points and periodic process reviews. 

Make sure you have made your process and your RACI public. These should be used regularly as reference materials, not buried away in a shared folder. 

Change Controls

A Change Control Plan is used to validate that changes to a process or system have been properly reviewed, tested, documented and approved before implementation. Change Controls are typically related to quality management, software or IT.

If your proposed solutions include software related changes, you'll need to establish Change Controls. Work with the system owner or your IT department to create a Change Control Plan. They may have a Change Control plan template or example from other software system.

This should include a formal process for reviewing the proposed system change by a Subject Matter Expert (SME) or by a committee of SMEs from multiple departments. The review should discuss upstream and downstream impacts of the change and how to best mitigate risk. Change Controls must also include an approval and testing process.


Standardization is ensuring a process is performed within a set of guidelines or rules. Any time a process is repeated more than once, it should be considered for standardization. If a process is not standardized, you run the risk of introducing errors or waste. You also risk not meeting your customer's expectations.

Standardization vs Creativity

The primary argument against standardization is that it can stifle creativity and make employees feel like robots or cogs in a machine. This is where you must use judgement to find the right balance on standardization vs creativity.

Things to ask yourself:

- Do your customers need consistent results, outputs or deliverables?
- Are multiple people performing the same process?
- Is the process repeated more than once?
- Does the process involve risk or impact safety?
- Will standardization save time or improve quality without sacrificing customer service?
- Is lack of standardization creating downstream effects on your customers or other departments in the company?
- Does it make good business sense? Or, do the benefits of standardization outweigh the disadvantages?

The ultimate end goal is an ongoing, fully sustained improvement. Take the time to sustain and standardize to fully capture all of the benefits of the project.

Download the Sustain & Share Plan. Complete the Sustainment section with your project team.

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