OPS concepts had their origins with Ford Motor Company in the late 1980's. The TOPS method was first organized, as a team structure, to be used in conjunction with the popular 8D (Eight-Discipline) practice. Employed successfully at Ford locations the method was shared with Fords supply base. This three-day training instructed many users and established the prominent place for TOPS as an outstanding method to solve problems.
In recent years TOPS has found a place in harmony with many established problem and project management situations. No longer limited to 8D, TOPS is now the preferred team structure for PDCA, Lean, and DMAIC projects. Today, we look at TOPS teams as the best practice for organizing effective improvement teams. In this article we will examine the TOPS team structure and not so much the problem or project to which they are tasked.
- Cross-functional members
- the voice of the company. The champion owns the team, the results, and the implementation from an executive level. Champions typically do not attend meetings or attempt to micromanage the team, but remain on standby to render assistance. Champions can write checks, authorize overtime, remove obstacles, and breakup fights.
- the one with the most to gain by completing the project. A big stakeholder will exert more energy than a casual Leader. The Leader sets the schedule, selects the team members, and makes assignments.
- Champions, Leaders and team members may not be skilled in problem solving tools or methods. The Facilitator frequently will be a Six Sigma Black Belt or Lean Master. The roll of the Facilitator is not to lead the team, but to provide training and assistance regarding the best methods to get the job done.
- nothing is more important that keeping good records. The Recorder maintains all the documentation regarding team activities and results. Frequently this takes the form of a Kaizen Newspaper.
- this is where the tribal knowledge (expert opinion) comes from. Profound subject knowledge is essential to success. A skilled Facilitator will use proven consensus building tools to harvest the tribal knowledge and prioritize it. Once the critical cause and effects relationships have been identified, they must be validated using statistical logic and proof of concept methods.
The ancestor to most successful teams is a clear Charter, signed by the Champion and the Team Leader. Once signed this document becomes a contract. The Champion represents the voice of the company and the Leader is the voice of the "deliverables".
KAVON International, Inc. has assisted both manufacturing and service oriented organization to use the TOPS methods for a diverse array of applications. These have not been limited to, but have included FMEA, APQP, 8D, DMAIC, Environmental, 5S, and Lean projects.