Process improvement methods are a key aspect of BPM and represent the overall approach to how improvements can be achieved. Some of these methods have erroneously been equated to BPM, which operates on a wider platform. These methods form only one aspect of BPM and allow us to examine organizational processes and make improvements to them.
This article touches on 4 major process improvement methods and when you may consider applying them.
1. When a process costs too much money, time and expertise to execute...Think Lean.
Expending resources on process steps other than those that result in value creation for the customer is considered waste. Value is defined as any process and service for which the customer is willing to pay.
Here’s a lean quote that further drives home the point:
Don’t water your weeds - Harvey MacKay
This emphasizes the need to eliminate activities that are of no value instead of expending resources on them to the detriment of the customer and the business.
2. When the results of a process are inconsistent and you want to reduce variability…Think Six Sigma.
Six Sigma aims to reduce variability in the end results of manufacturing and business processes by identifying where errors are most likely to come from and reducing the chances of those errors occurring. It relies heavily on statistics and measurements.
It emphasizes setting high objectives, collecting data and analysing results as a way to reduce defects. The philosophy is that if you can measure how many defects are in a system, you can figure out how to eliminate them and get as close to perfection as possible.
Here’s a quote that further captures the essence of six sigma:
Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it - H. James Harrington.
3. When your products or services are suffering from poor quality…Think TQM.
Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives - William A. Foster.
TQM cuts across different functions of the business and is one form of continuous improvement that embodies practices such as process management, customer and employee involvement, information and feedback, strategic planning, committed leadership, training and supplier quality management.
4. When you need staff to collectively understand and work together to achieve the goals of a process…Think Kaizen.
Everything can be improved ~Clarence W. Barron.
Kaizen is a Japanese word for “change for better”. It is a set of practices, a philosophy or a mindset that focuses on teamwork, employee involvement, waste identification and process improvement. It can be as simple as a single person identifying an improvement that needs to be made or a group of people coming together to achieve an improvement that affects them.
The improvement method you decide to apply on your project will of course depend on the circumstances. There will always be situations where one method is more ideal than the other.