What is Process Improvement?

Process improvement is a systematic approach to identifying, analyzing and improving existing processes within an organization. Common goals often include improving quality, client satisfaction and productivity.  Oftentimes, it can increase employee satisfaction due to strong role clarity and a greater focus on providing value, address problems by focusing on the process, and increasing client satisfaction by reducing waste and eliminating errors. A common organization specializing in process improvement is the American Society of Quality.

Process improvement methodologies have continuously evolved over the years from “Toyota’s production system (TPS)” (in the 1950s), to Motorola Inc.’s pursuit of Six Sigma defective rates in the 1980s, to Total Quality Management, Lean and Operational Excellence (OPEX).  The most recent trends of process improvement focus on identifying value and creating a constant flow in a process.  Lean initiatives aim to maximize value while minimizing waste, all while ensuring respect for people.   As an extension of Lean, Operational Excellence is a philosophy of organizational leadership that focuses on continuous improvement.  It’s a problem-solving methodology that provides a framework to understand why and how performance needs to be improved, eliminating any type of waste, increasing the efficiency and improving the quality of the outcomes.

Although the methodologies for this service are greatly varied, one common, data-driven pattern is known as “DMAIC”:

  • Define – Establish the focus of the improvement project by defining the objective, creating a charter, and establishing the team.  This may also include understanding customer requirements (internal and external).
  • Measure – Examine and document the current situation and process under review.  One of tools used in this phase is a Process Map, a visual tool used to show the sequence and interactions of process steps, activities and tasks that are necessary to complete the activity. It’s an easy way to visualize what is happening and help us to identify improvement opportunities. 
  • Analyze – Once the process is documented, the team will look at the problems identified in the process to determine the root causes of the problems or process variations.  Common tools used at this stage include a “Cause and Effect Diagram” or other statistical methods including control charts. 
  • Improve – The team work to implement changes and measure if they effectively improve the process, often using a Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) method.  PDCA is a repetitive 4-stage model used to implement continuous improvement:
    • Plan: Problem is addressed, data is collected and a plan of change is elaborated
    • Do: Solution is developed and implemented
    • Check: Test are reviewed, results are confirmed, effectiveness of the change is measured
    • Act: Actions are taken action based on the result of the previous step. An improved solution is implemented.
  • Control – The final stage of the process is to standardize successful changes and draw conclusions on future process improvements. This may include drafting documentation and making the information about the improvement process available to the entire team.

The Change Management & Project Services office uses each of the services described to work towards a unique solution for the initiatives presented.  Other services include Change Management, Project Management, Process Improvement, and Business Analysis.  By blending the tools and techniques described above, we will work with our customers to help define and create a solution that increases value for the unit, reduces waste, and achieves the requirement of the change/project.

If you want to know more about our services contact us here.