The final phase of (Lean) Six Sigma’s DMAIC framework is Control. Its purpose is twofold: to ensure action items from the previous phase are efficiently implemented and maintained, and to monitor any variants in the improved process that falls above or below the pre-determined control limits. One of the most widely used tools in this phase is the control chart: a simple and effective tool to monitor process performance over time as it relates to variability. In short, a control chart indicates whether or not we are operating within acceptable limits (control limits). If the data falls outside of these limits we are out of control.

Overview: what is an out of control action plan?

The out of control action plan is a type of contingency control chart. They are not always needed – only when the data being measured in the Control phase falls outside of the range that was pre-determined to be acceptable. Being outside of this control range, whether it’s too high or too low – means there is now an “out of control” situation that must be addressed quickly. The OCAP outlines the steps to follow to correct the data so the outputs are back within the acceptable range.

The OCAP’s purpose is to help teams identify and correct those root causes that are causing problems in their processes. The OCAP works by helping teams identify variables that have possible effects on the process, including consequences or trends. Once these are identified, it gives a way for teams to investigate each one independently to determine its impact on performance.

3 Benefits of using an out of control action plan

1. It helps you gather data and make sense of it.

This is particularly useful when you are trying to understand why a process is not working the way it should be.

2. It helps you get rid of waste in your process.

Waste is anything that doesn’t add value to the customer and could be eliminated from your system without impacting the quality or quantity of output.

3. It helps you establish a clear action plan for improvement.

Having an action plan means that everyone involved knows what needs to be done next, which makes it easier for them to move forward with their work without getting pulled off track by distractions that might otherwise distract them from what’s really important: making sure improvements are made.

Why is the out of control action plan important to understand?

The out of control action plan (OCAP) is one of the most widely misunderstood improvement tools in all of Lean Six Sigma. Just saying “OCAP” or viewing a picture sometimes doesn’t give someone a thorough understanding of what the tool is intended for. OCAP is best applied when you have batch processes, multiple causes, and long cycle times. Its easier to illustrate a concept through a practical application than just spew out theoretical jargon. Make sure you understand this tool because people within your organization will be able to apply it directly on the job.

An industry example of out of control action plan

OCAPs are used by many different companies across multiple industries, and it is particularly well-suited for the manufacturing industry. But the idea of an out of control action plan – simply knowing how to respond to and address any adverse outcomes to any professional endeavor – is arguably of value for just about any industry. Let’s look at one you might least expect: social media.

In order to have an effective social media campaign, having executable plans is key. But what is often harder than coming up with strategies to reach the audience is knowing how to react to the unexpected. In the online world, where social media can generate millions of comments about a brand in minutes, that can be a difficult thing to prepare for. What if no matter what you do, you’re attacked? What if you take the opposite approach and ignore what’s being said about you, but it turns out you should have responded? What if the things people are saying don’t reflect at all what your brand stands for or how you want the world see you?

The best response to this is to prepare in advance so that if something happens, you don’t end up scrambling and hoping for the best. The primary purpose of an out of control action plan is to increase your chances of meeting your message goals (achieving the desired, expected outcome) while minimizing risk or damage (keeping variants within control limits).

3 Best practices when thinking about out of control action plans

1. Think about the customer’s needs and how you can best meet them.

Being proactive rather than reactive is a far more efficient use of resources. It is also important to constantly communicate with the customer to ensure that their needs are being met.

2. Have a clear plan for how you will execute the OCAP and make sure everyone is on the same page.

Having a clear plan is essential for successfully executing an out of control action plan. Everyone needs to be on the same page in order to avoid confusion and chaos. Make sure that everyone understands the plan and knows what their role is. Having a clear plan will help ensure that the out of control situation is handled effectively and efficiently.

3. Take care to test and measure the results of your actions to ensure they are having the desired effect.

if you are doing something to improve your productivity, organize your work, or control your costs, determine whether you are making progress. This must be done to accurately measure the impact of any changes that were made.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about out of control action plans

What should one do when people react badly to the OCAP?

The best scenario is to prevent a bad reaction, rather than react to one. By tempering one’s expectations, introducing the change with a positive spirit, and having belief that employees want to cooperate, any resistance is far less likely. Open communication, allowing employee input, forming a leadership team, listening to any concerns employees might have, and creating a feedback and improvement loop are also ways to prevent bad reactions.

What are the most important things to have in a OCAP?

There are six key actions needed in an out of control action plan.

1) Careful observation

2) forced manual override of automated systems (allows for exercising of more caution)

3) both immediate and long term actions to restore the process back to the desired level

4) follow the process as outlined in the plan

5) if processes aren’t working, stop and escalate to upper management

6) defer to an expert (if there is an expert in the group who can fix the issue, stop and allow them to do so, and check the results immediately after.

Is it best to have more than one person to carry out the goals of the out of control action plan?

No. This should be done by the process owner.

One way to solve many problems

It is often said that you can not look at how lean business operations will work if you do not understand repeatable processes. In the past, many companies have followed the same method of doing things over and over again, and is seen as the cause of many quality issues. The idea of using an out of control action plan to help eliminate the issues caused by repetitive processes has become a popular way of solving many of the quality issues that arise in the business world today.

About the Author