A successful process improvement initiative is the key to a company’s ability to maintain an edge over the competition. Unfortunately, many company executives are so fixated on rapid growth and profits that they overlook the importance of evaluating the processes that they implemented when the business was launched. Failure to devote adequate focus to process improvement can lead to operational bottlenecks, poor service, and a low rate of customer satisfaction.
A company can seize extra-ordinary opportunities only if it is very good at the ordinary operations.Marcel Telles
Below is a look at the key benefits of a process improvement initiative and 10 steps to using it successfully in your business.
How Does a Process Improvement Initiative Benefit an Organization?
A Process improvement initiative yields a number of tangible and intangible benefits for companies. Tangible benefits are easier to quantify and often take center stage in the process improvement arena. They include reduced operating costs, higher revenues and improved compliance with industry standards. Intangible benefits are difficult to measure but are important for an organization’s image. Examples of some of the intangible benefits of process improvement include an improved brand image, higher levels of customer satisfaction, and time savings. Organizations should keep these benefits in mind as they begin investing their resources in process improvement.
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Key Steps to Launching an Effective Process Improvement Initiative
A successful process improvement initiative requires the participation of all employees, including managers and front-line workers. Company training programs and tools should exhibit consistency and accuracy, and employees should be rewarded for adopting work behaviors that reflect their commitment to process improvement. Below are 10 specific steps to help organizations launch a fruitful process improvement initiative.
Improve company culture
There is a big difference between building a process improvement program and a process improvement culture. Building a culture that values process improvement requires you to identify the behaviors that you would like employees to exhibit on a daily basis. Successfully crafting a culture of ongoing process improvement involves the following:
- Employees remain engaged by proposing ideas and discussing suggestions
- There is no variance in the way that different employees perform the exact same job
- All employees understand their roles and how their performance is tied to outcomes
- Every employee is focused on continually improving their job processes
- Stress consistency between departments
Tie process improvement to key objectives
Your employees need to see the connection between their efforts to improve processes and your company’s mission. By linking process improvement strategies to organizational goals, you will be more apt to earn the support of employees across the board.
Request employee feedback
Your front-line employees are the best embodiment of your company’s processes. They perform the same tasks every day and often have firsthand information regarding procedural strengths and weaknesses. Suggestions and feedback from front-line employees can play an incredibly vital role in improving your processes. Below are some strategies to help encourage employees from every department of your organization to submit suggestions and feedback:
- Set up an email address to which employees can send their suggestions
- Make sure your company has an actual suggestion box on the premises
- Encourage employees to verbally share ideas and suggestions during meetings
- Establish a private group for sharing feedback on Facebook or LinkedIn
- Ensure that managers are open to hearing both positive and negative feedback
Optimize everyday operations
Many companies are never able to grow because they spend all of their energy fixing broken processes. While addressing bottlenecks and other problems is an important part of process improvement, a more productive approach is to evaluate procedures that are not broken. Sometimes this can be achieved by making an adjustment that is as small as a minor tweak to the order entry process.
Enhance training programs
Your company’s focus on process improvement should first be noted during the employee hiring process and then reemphasized in detail during the training process. Below are some steps to cover during employee training:
- Outline the scope of your existing processes
- Teach employees how to spot inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement
- Educate employees about documentation of roles and assigned tasks
- Highlight the need for consistency
Use blended learning
Your training program should exemplify process improvement by engaging employees and exhibiting consistency in approach. A blended learning approach engages employees by using a multi-media approach that involves a combination of live and online learning activities. A Learning Management System (LMS) also uses a standardized online approach to training which provides a quantifiable means of assessing training effectiveness. Below are some key reasons why an LMS facilitates process improvement:
- An LMS allows companies to measure and improve upon employee training success
- Companies can monitor training completion rates through use of built-in analytics
- Acquired knowledge can be measured through an online exam following the completion of training
- Companies can measure employee satisfaction with the online training process
By delegating key process improvement responsibilities to your managers and supervisors, you help ensure that key employees remain actively involved. Additionally, managers and supervisors are aware of key problem areas that require sustained attention. Some strategies to empower employees to manage process improvement include the following:
- Assign a team of employees to conduct an internal process improvement audit
- Establish regular reporting procedures to track results
- Delegate responsibility to employees who consistently model process improvement behaviors
Use process improvement tools
Some operational inefficiencies can be easily addressed. More complex issues, however, are best addressed with the help of new software or workflows that help prevent bottlenecks and ongoing operational challenges that organizations face. Below are some of the most common process improvement tools used by companies to identify and address problems:
- Process mapping: Creation of workflow diagrams to clarify processes
- Scatter diagrams: A graph that plots two variables along two axes to illustrate a correlation
- Histograms: Illustrations of frequency distributions
- Cause and effect diagrams
- Pareto analysis: A statistical technique to solve problems that operates under the principle that 80% of problems are caused by 20% of causes
Focus on long-term success
The most successful process improvement initiatives value future solutions over short-term fixes. You should expect to encounter obstacles as you focus on process improvement and strive to maintain a positive attitude towards process improvement. Success requires patience and a long-term commitment to documenting strategies and outcomes from start to finish. This allows you to review your execution in detail to determine when and where a process faltered.
Linking incentives and bonuses to process improvements is an effective way to stimulate employee interest in process improvement. Below is a step by step process to use to reward employees for remaining engaged in process improvement strategies:
- Identify specific process-related goals for employees to attain
- Tie goal attainment to employees’ receipt of rewards
- Choose rewards that are relevant and desirable to employees
- Make sure that employees also know how their goal attainment is influencing company goal attainment
Enlisting the Support of a Process Improvement Expert
Not all process improvement strategies produce desirable results. The best way to achieve desired results for your company is to seek the guidance of an experienced professional. The process management experts with Tallyfy help companies of all sizes improve their processes and workflows. Tallyfy’s commitment to providing companies of all sizes with cost-effective solutions has made them a trusted leader in the process improvement industry. With a free 30 day trial, your organization can experience the benefits of Tallyfy’s process improvement solutions.