The Key to Headache Free Process Improvement

“Process Improvement is something we always look forward to.” – Said no one. Ever.

This activity involves intense attention to detail, serious time-consumption and a healthy dose of staff push-back. The acknowledged cost savings reaped from Process Improvement means that it will never go away, but by getting the framework right up front, much of the pain can be reduced.

The main goal of Process Improvement is increased efficiency, whether this means a shortened turn-around time of delivery or allowing for more creativity and ideas from staff to flow. It’s applicable to any facet of any business. Pixar knew this when borrowing Toyota’s Process Improvement plan. Indeed, at Spark Strategy we’ve applied this method to industrial manufacturers, mental health organisations and government departments just to name a few.

Implementing process improvement isn’t easy. Before even starting the process, we’ve found the following precursory activities useful:

  • Talk – conduct meetings or interviews with staff to isolate a common problem
  • Have staff complete anonymous surveys, encourage brutal honesty, identify reoccurring themes
  • Trend analysis – Compare one period’s numbers to another to see fluctuations in production, sales, profitability

A quick way to diagnose where your organisation’s strengths, pain points and areas of opportunity are is to take a Business Health Check Survey.The Process Architecture captures each function of an organisation (or division) and maps them, then lists the processes of each function underneath. Think about what the tent poles are that hold your business up – value chain components such as Planning, Marketing, Sales, Service Delivery, Finance etc. – and identify what the individual processes are underneath each category, and what it takes for each process to reach completion. The most common mistake during this step is confusing the altitudes of what is done by the organisation. You may have someone with a loud voice that suggests Project Planning as a first order function, whereas this should actually be a sub process. The second most common mistake is to map the organisational structure, mapping out divisions rather than thinking about what you do.An example of Process Architecture we created for a client is pictured here. As you can see, we then used a traffic light system to categorise the severely broken processes, those that could be improved, and those that we don’t need to spend time analysing because they work really well – red, yellow and green respectively.

If you get this Process Architecture right you are setting up the rest of the activity for success.

And hopefully you won’t need as much aspirin along the way.

Want to know more about implementing sound Process Architecture and Improvement?
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, Richie, through

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