“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”
– W. Edwards Deming, Management Innovator
Early in my career, I wouldn’t say I liked process improvement. I was all about strategy, innovation, and breaking paradigms. Process improvement seemed dull, rigid, claustrophobic, and monotonous.
When I began to lead large teams, I fully appreciated the importance of process improvement to an organization. Much of strategy focuses on the “What,” “Why,” and “Where” of strategy. Yet, when you take a step back, often just as important or even more important is the “HOW,” we get things done since this is where most of an organization’s resources, time, effort, costs, and capital are tied up. And the “how” is all about processes and process improvement.
While you can point a ship in a different direction, if it can’t go any faster and navigate the seas very well, the competition will most likely pass it up. To dramatically increase an organization’s capacity for change, focus on process improvement to drive the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization’s processes.
In this section, we’ll cover the top process improvement methodologies, concepts, and tools to crank out the efficiency and effectiveness of your company’s processes, including:
1. Process Mapping
The first place to start in process improvement is to abstract a process into a process map. Learn the anatomy of a process, the key questions to ask, the process mapping symbols, and best practices.
2. Process Maturity
There are five levels of maturity to any process. At what level of process maturity are your essential processes? Jumping to the next maturity levels is the goal of process improvement. Learn the five process maturity levels and the best practices to improve to the next level. We even include a handy process maturity worksheet.
3. Theory of Constraints
The cornerstone of process theory is the theory of constraints. Every top MBA program includes the theory of constraints in its curriculum. Learn about process capacity, bottlenecks, flow, signs of constraint, and how to release process constraints best.
4. The 8 Forms of Waste
Strategic leaders are masters at identifying and eliminating waste in a process. Do you know the eight forms of waste and the best practices to eliminate them? We’ve got you covered in this section and even provide a helpful free worksheet.
5. Lean Improvement Tools
Every process should be lean, minimizing the resources and time to process inputs into outputs. You’ll become better at process improvement if you understand when and how to apply all the lean improvement tools, such as demand-pull, one-piece flow, load balancing, ECRS, 5S, just-in-time inventory, standardization, and continuous process improvement.
Kaizen is one of the best philosophies and methodologies for continuous process improvement. Kaizen puts all the process improvement tools and concepts together in a cohesive process improvement methodology.
7. Six Sigma & DMAIC
Six Sigma is another solid process improvement methodology that utilizes the DMAIC framework of defining, measuring, analyzing, improving, and controlling a process. It’s a solid methodology to continuously improve critical processes.
Never try to automate a low-maturity process since it will still be inefficient and ineffective. But, once you reach a high level of maturity, automation is your go-to process improvement tool to vastly minimize the resources and time for the process to transform inputs into outputs. And, given today’s technologies in automation and robotics, you can automate any process quickly and cost-effectively.
Just like all of the sections on this site, you can pick and choose a topic or if you want a nice overview of a section read the topics in order.