Businesses need to remain constantly nimble to address internal and external changes in the marketplace. They must strive to continually improve all aspects that will result in high productivity and work out in increasingly inexpensive ways. But a process improvement plan can help you address marketplace changes. Some of these are demand and supply shifts, competition, and technological advancements.
Nonetheless, numerous process improvement plans fail on arrival. Therefore, you can spend millions on developing the perfect process improvement plan profile, and yet fail when it comes to implementation. However, today’s processes are increasingly qualitative and focus on:
- Complex IT system;
- Global supply chain;
- Product lifecycle;
- Customer relationship management.
All these rely on the project team. As such, this article discusses the most effective ways in which to design and implement successful process improvement plans.
What Is a Process Improvement Plan?
It is a component of the project management plan that documents the steps for analyzing processes to improve operation. Below are the components of a process improvement plan:
- Process boundary: Process boundaries establish where the process begins and end as well as its input and output. For there to be accountability for each process, project managers are responsible for overseeing process improvement measures. Process boundaries are important in ensuring that the work being done falls within the boundaries. This is to avoid extraneous work with no impact on the overall strategy.
- Process configuration: It is a geographical or illustrated presentation of the project’s process. With process configuration, the project team can easily visualize which processes can be helpful. This is useful for analyzing progress, identifying shortcomings, and determining ways in which activities can be improved throughout the project. Note that like all other project documentation, process configuration must be updated once changes are made.
- Process metrics: Process metrics are measures which help the project team to evaluate various performance metrics. The project team uses these measures to continually measure, monitor, and track project progress. So the purpose of this is to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the process.
- Targets: It is always good if the project team clearly understands the state of the current processes and where they want to be at the end of the project. To drive the cycle of continuous improvement, you need to establish targets for each metric.
Common Mistakes in Process Improvement
Processes do not modify themselves. Instead, it is the people who plan and implement needs to change. Unfortunately, most process improvement plans focus more on the profile than the actual process. Here is what causes most processes to break down.
- Disconnection between what is outlined in the plan and what the project team can actually implement;
- Lack of consistency. Executives want instant results and then move on to the next processes;
- Failure to account for the ripple effects throughout the project;
- Developing a new plan without involving key stakeholders.
Most process improvement plans are headed in the right direction. However, they are decade old and were largely developed for the manufacturers. Today’s organizations have more complex supply chains, structures, and systems. Unlike before, today’s processes aren’t just quantitative. It is not just looking how many units an employee can produce in an hour. In fact, most of the processes can’t be improved by cutting the duration at each step.
5 Effective Ways to Design and Implement Processes
1. Visual Thinking
If you want changes, you have to communicate the changes you want to the employees. In most companies, despite spending much time in planning, process improvement plans offer only benefits the executives. However, visualization can help an organization to easily accelerate understanding and alignment.
Visualization helps employees understand their responsibilities and how their individual efforts fit into the overall strategy. A recent study from Picture Superiority Effect has revealed that people can remember only 3% of what they heard 3 days ago. Also, they remember 55% more if the information was accompanied by visuals.
It means the involvement of key stakeholders in developing new processes, instead of consulting experts. Engaging everyone across the organization helps understand project constraints that exist throughout the project lifecycle. Once you involve everyone in the decision-making process, you get opinions from different an extensive background.
Again, employees are likely to support what they helped to build. As such, engaging them in designing improvement processes makes them advocate for the changes and experts on the new processes.
There is a common fallacy that stopping a project to evaluate its progress slows the process down and adds cost. Validating allows project managers to assess the process from all angles. So you can be refine it to fit into the overall strategy.
A good approach to this is for teams to undergo a stress test and a walk-through. That way you can make adjustments to accelerate adoption.
Most improvement processes die at the activation stage. Consequently, after spending resources and time developing a new process, employees may not be willing to embrace new changes. As such, you may have to convince them of the importance of the new changes. Then, you may accelerate adoption when the new plan is rolled out.
Activation can be easier and faster, especially if you had invited stakeholders in co-creating the new process. Great activation involves:
- Continuous training and practice opportunities;
- Employee engagement;
- Ample opportunities for a two-way dialogue.
A process improvement plan can compare to dieting. So like dieters, organizations may realize some initial success after adopting a new process. Later, they lose the momentum and get back into old patterns. Making permanent changes can take as long as five years. However, it can take long to embed a culture of continuous improvement.
The best way to achieve a successful process improvement plan is to encourage continuous improvement. Managers, therefore, need to learn to how to foster continuous improvement as is the real driver of process improvement.
A recent study by Insigniam found that innovation in the internal processes is among the best factors in determining business success.
By combining the doctrines of co-creation and visualization with validation, activation, and engagement, process improvement plan can help transform and accelerate the way organizations innovate their internal processes.