Process improvement methodologies analyze the workflows currently in place within an organization and help identify opportunities for process improvement. This helps businesses become more efficient, flexible, and competitive.
There are several techniques that you can use to identify and improve issues that hinder your business processes or cause bottlenecks in your workflows. While the end goal is the same across these methodologies, they vary in how you will identify, analyze, and implement change.
Companies that do not implement process improvement methodologies across their organization often fall victim to the following issues:
- Low employee productivity. Project team members that understand how their actions contribute to overarching company goals are more likely to take pride in their work and produce more than employees who are stuck completing mundane tasks.
- Lack of work standardization. When project operations are poorly planned, the potential for project failure increases significantly. Organizational workflows should be continuously analyzed, improved, and standardized to properly mitigate risk.
- Low customer satisfaction. One aspect that most process improvement methodologies focus on is the continuous improvement of operations to increase overall customer satisfaction. Without continuous improvement, it is difficult for a company to cater to their customers’ evolving needs.
In this article, we will discuss the benefits of using process improvement methodologies, identify strategies you can use to improve business processes, and show you how to use tools such as MindManager® to create process improvement diagrams.
Benefits of using process improvement methodologies
Inefficient or stagnant processes negatively impact your internal operations, customer experience, and other business goals. Following process improvement methodologies helps ensure that your organization continuously works to improve processes and better assign value to the products or services offered.
Process improvement initiatives can transform entire institutions for the better. By implementing process improvement methodologies within your organization, you will be able to reap the following benefits:
- Reduced project risk. It is no secret that human beings are error-prone and bring a variety of risk factors to organizational processes. By implementing a process improvement methodology such as business process improvement (BPI), project teams are able to identify project tasks that can be automated for improvement.Automating mundane tasks within a project workflow enables companies to save resources and avoid the risk of human error altogether. Possessing the ability to properly mitigate risk factors within company processes is also a key aspect of adaptability, which is necessary to stay afloat in any industry.
- Increased employee productivity. Project team members that understand how their actions contribute to overarching company goals are more likely to take pride in their work and produce more than employees who are stuck completing mundane tasks.Process improvement methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma focus on respect for people and continuous improvement to help project teams optimize their workflows. As a result of optimizing company processes, project teams will be able to significantly increase the amount and quality of work their employees produce.
- Increased customer satisfaction. No matter what industry your company is in, it is important to remember that your customers value two things: consistency and accuracy. Customers want to know that they are getting the best deal on the products or services they purchase.Process improvement in practice enables organizations to build trust with their customers by continuously providing competitive offerings, regardless of the state of the market. Without process improvement methodologies in place, a business will be hard-pressed to adapt as the market shifts.
5 Process improvement methodologies you should be using at your organization
There are several different process improvement methodologies that your team can use to optimize project workflows. Here are a few of the most effective process improvement methodologies used by top businesses to implement organizational change:
1. Lean Six Sigma
Lean Six Sigma is a process improvement approach that combines the focuses of the Lean methodology and Six Sigma to reduce waste and variation in operational processes. Lean Six Sigma is often used in manufacturing to gain consistency in production, which results in heightened customer satisfaction rates.
This methodology utilizes Six Sigma’s DMAIC technique to improve upon existing company workflows. The DMAIC technique is composed of these simple steps:
- Define the opportunity for improvement.
- Measure the performance of an existing process.
- Analyze the process to find any defects and their root causes.
- Improve the process by addressing the root causes found.
- Control the improved process and future process performance to correct any deviations before they result in defects.
During the analysis stage of the DMAIC technique, project teams use a cause and effect diagram to visualize issues that may cause product or service defects. This tool helps project teams identify the root cause of various issues that may occur during the product/service development, manufacturing, or delivery process.
Lean Six Sigma also heavily focuses on lean methodology’s insistence on eliminating waste. Any tasks within a workflow that do not add value are considered waste activities, including:
- Transportation. Unnecessarily moving products.
- Inventory. Possessing materials that aren’t necessary to process current orders.
- Motion. Exerting more energy than necessary to complete the process.
- Waiting.Waiting to begin work, or interruptions in production.
- Overproduction. Excessively producing materials ahead of demand.
- Overprocessing. Performing additional work due to redundancies or poorly designed products.
- Defects. Checking for and fixing defects in the system resulting in wasted time.
- Skills. Underutilizing the knowledge and skills employees possess.
2. Total quality management
Total quality management (TQM) is a process improvement methodology that aims to improve customer satisfaction by continuously improving upon business processes.
TQM implementation techniques vary across industries, but organizations using TQM to improve company processes should use the following principles as a guideline:
- Follow a strategic and systematic approach to achieve set goals.
- Customers determine what the quality is and how it is evaluated.
- Employee training techniques and effective communication ensure that employees not only understand the definition of quality, but also how to achieve it.
- Organizations should define the required steps necessary to carry out specific business operations and monitor performance to detect deviations before consequences ensue.
Companies that practice TQM often use PDCA cycles to aid continuous improvement. The PDCA cycle has four stages:
- Plan. Determine what the goals are for a process and what changes must be implemented to achieve them.
- Do. Implement the proposed changes.
- Check. Evaluate the results of the changes in terms of performance.
- Act. Standardize and stabilize the change or begin the cycle again, depending on the results.
3. Theory of constraints
The theory of constraints can be used to identify the most significant bottlenecks within an organizational workflow such as lack of automation or poor forecasting. According to this methodology, every complex system consists of various linked activities.
At least one of those activities acts as a constraint upon the entire system, limiting the system’s ability to produce quality products and services. Organizations must focus on improving or resolving the constraint in order to improve the process.
In implementing this method, five steps must be taken to achieve process improvement goals:
- Identify. Identify the constraint(s) in each process.
- Exploit. Use your existing resources to use the constraint to its full capacity.
- Subordinate. Review and align all other activities in the process to support the optimal outcome from the constraint.
- Elevate. Add resources or adjust processes to eliminate the constraint.
- Repeat. The theory of constraints is a cycle of continuous improvement. Once you have resolved a constraint, repeat the process to address the next bottleneck.
The agile methodology is an iterative process improvement approach in which project teams drive change by implementing small incremental changes in processes over time. This approach derives from the Agile Manifesto, a collection of agile principles and values which helps businesses become more adaptable.
In agile methodology, there are four main values that businesses should abide by:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
- Responding to change over following a plan.
The agile approach does not strictly define project deadlines. Instead, agile teams work together to improve processes in iterations, making it easier for them to adapt to changes.
Agile teams solicit feedback from all team members involved in the process that needs improvement. Once the problem has been highlighted, team members and other stakeholders make small, incremental changes to their workflow to solve project bottlenecks.
5. Business process management
Business process management (BPM) is one of the most common process improvement methodologies used by organizations today. The BPM approach helps teams identify issues in project workflows and identifies ways to automate and optimize tasks to improve operational efficiency.
There are five main steps that project teams must follow to effectively improve company processes:
- Analyze. Assess the processes currently in place within your organization and utilize process maps to visualize them from beginning to end.
- Model. Create a plan that details how the process should ideally look. The plan should identify and address any bottlenecks uncovered during the analysis phase.
- Implement. Put your model into action. Be sure to track and measure key metrics, such as employee productivity rates, as these will come in handy during the monitoring phase.
- Monitor. Based on the data gathered during the implementation phase, decide whether your process improvements are successful.
- Optimize.As the workflow evolves, continue to identify opportunities for improvement. As these opportunities arise, address them immediately.
As mentioned above, BPM utilizes process maps to visualize workflows and identify issues that are prohibiting processes from flowing smoothly. Process mapping enables project teams to view and analyze each step within an existing operational workflow. These tools also prove useful when seeking to communicate a complex process to a team or address recurring issues within a process.
How to use MindManager to create a process improvement diagram
Process improvement diagrams help project teams understand the processes currently in use within their organization, identify and analyze potential problems within those processes, and implement improvements.
Timelines, flowcharts, and organizational charts may prove especially helpful when you and your organization are seeking to better understand how current operations or processes flow and eliminate waste activities within project workflows.
MindManager offers a wide variety of templates that project teams can use to better visualize current workflows. The image below depicts the various forms of process improvement diagrams available in MindManager:
Once you have chosen a template that suits the needs of your business, begin filling it out depicting the reality of the process in place within your organization.
MindManager as a process improvement tool
Process improvement relies on an organization’s ability to understand where they are currently at and make improvements to existing processes to get them where they need to be.
By visualizing the various steps of a process, businesses are able to implement process improvements without sacrificing the quality of the products and services they offer.
Project teams can boost their ability to collaboratively visualize process improvements by making use of MindManager’s co-editing capabilities. With MindManager, users can work together in real time, regardless of their location to visualize workflows and identify opportunities for improvement.
MindManager also enables users to link the process improvement diagrams they create to other project documents such as project plans and strategy maps, to aid the management of process improvement initiatives.