Have you suffered from making the right decision due to insufficient data and lack of information to support your judgment? Have you experienced difficulties with a heavy workload and uncertainty about what works well and what doesn’t? Do you struggle to get details about your team’s performance? You are aware that your department makes various and repetitive errors, and, you want to enhance your department’s efficiency, and streamline their work within a limited time frame.
Learning how to manage these challenges by employing an ongoing systematic approach, analyze and make your processes more efficient are the tenets of the process improvement work.
Process improvement is the systematic, continuous improvement of business processes by defining, measuring, analyzing improving, and controlling ( DMAIC ) existing processes.
Why Is Process Improvement Important?
By undertaking process improvement, taking advantage of the opportunities afforded, and becoming a lean organization, you will gain excellence and a competitive edge in the market.
Business processes are core assets in your organization. They determine roles and responsibilities and thus shape the work of every employee. And by improving this core asset, you will bring your organization to a new level of operational efficiency, service enhancement, cost reduction, and customer focus.
Following a standardized process improvement approach allows you to look closely at your employee’s performance and make shrewd decisions based on data-driven facts.
Where Do I Begin Process Improvement?
A roadmap, outlining a step-by-step process, will take you through the journey of process improvement to reach your goal and maintain sustainability. Prior to establishing momentum for your journey, you should be capable to answer the following questions:
What is my process improvement goals?
What processes should I identify to measure for improvement?
What are the problems caused by the processes chosen for improvement?
This guide provides you with a roadmap to shape your approach to process improvement and find the cause root of your processes’ problems. It consists of seven steps:
Step 1: Develop a Process Master Document
Every department has numerous business processes to manage. Deciding the initial process analysis begins with building an organizational master document.
First, you identify the available processes in your organization, department or area.
You should also separate processes that include value and non-value activities toward your organizational goals. In this way, you narrow your focus to the most productive process in your organization that eventually drives excellence in process improvement.
Step 2: Develop a Data Collection Plan
Next, lay the foundation by gathering baseline data about your processes to assist you to categorize them, such as;
- The participants initiate the process (suppliers of inputs).
- The inputs required to proceed with the process and these inputs are considered information, forms or documents.
- The main steps performed by the process participants that, when
performed in sequence, lead to the output,
- The output(s) which is completed form of the activities (filling a form, document approval or new product development) and result(s) from the performance of the activities.
- The customer who is the person receives or approves the output.
- the essential metrics that reflect the efficiency and effectiveness of the
process (no of repetition, delay, satisfaction rate, etc.).
Step 3: Prioritize Processes
In order to prioritize, criteria are developed that rank processes accordingly. The goal of prioritization is to select the process with the greatest positive impact on organizational goals.
Establishing criteria depends on;
-Financial data indicating costs and return on investment (ROI),
-The number of people affected by the process, and/or,
-Employee satisfaction with the process.
You can add more criteria depending on your needs and process improvement goals.
Step 4: Flowchart the Current Process
Flowcharting your current processes illustrates interdepartmental functions and steps required to understand your complex business procedures from start to finish.
Flowcharts are useful tools and enable those involved to understand the steps in complicated business processes and interdepartmental handoffs, by utilizing different shapes connected with lines.
Better communication leads to employee engagement.
Step 5: Implement Process Change
i) Organize a team dedicated to processing improvement,
ii) Select the “right” people with corresponding skills to serve on the team,
iii) Identify available resources for the improvement effort, such as people, time, money, and materials,
iv) Determine the team’s level of authority, and,
v) Verify with the involved participants, that the flowchart accurately reflects the existing process.
It is imperative to solicit representatives from every department who might influence, or might be influenced, to actively participate in the improvement process.
Process improvement builds on this solid foundation, which ultimately provides support by actively engaged stakeholders.
Step 6: Create Tools and Develop Metrics
Creating tools and developing metrics will advance your effectiveness, efficiency, and adaptability by streamlining your business processes and assists in avoiding errors in workflow and approval automation, simplifying forms, and collaboration systems.
Developing metrics demonstrates success in the process by identifying;
i) The percentage of completed tasks,
ii) Amount of time delayed to complete a task,
iii) Workload percentage of a team member
Customized metrics allow you to reach your prioritized goal, track work performance while implementing process improvements, and identify any barriers that block a successful outcome.
Step 7: Monitor and Control
Finally, assess the stability of the change process and determine if you are within reach of your established goals and objectives.
And this depends on previously established metrics.
An aspect of the continuous process improvement methodology consists of monitoring and control. The creation of a feedback cycle enables you to be proactive to any changes when no improvements are evident.
While you are creating the test plan, you should answer questions like :
i) whom to involve in the test?
ii) what processes to test?
iii) what testing steps are involved?
Testing and evaluating the business process shoes you how well the business process performs. and whether to implement any changes to your improvement plan and requirements.
Now, you can keep an eye on how your process improvement work approaches your improvement goals.
At the end of this step, you should feel comfortable as you understand your business processes, tools, and metrics can be improved to achieve continuous improvement.