Using Process Improvement Tools to Achieve Operations Improvement
Leaders today are continually challenged to improve team performance often accomplishing more with less resources and increased operational complexity. To accomplish this many managers and leaders are turning to Business Process Improvement methodologies to enhance their ability to deliver results efficiently and effectively. The process improvement tools leveraged provide a defined path to follow when looking to enhance your business.
Some key Business Process Improvement methodologies include Lean, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma, and Business Process Management. While we will not drill into the specifics of these process improvement methodologies here, we are going to break down some key process improvement tools that will help you achieve operations improvements in your organization using some of the basic tools.
Let’s get started with the list of process improvement tools you can easily leverage in your operations improvement efforts:
- Business Case Template (problem statement / scope / goals)
- 5 Why’s
- Pareto Chart
- Action Plan
- Control Plan
Best Process Improvement Tools
Business Case Template
The Business Case is the start of your improvement where you take some time to outline the problem you are trying to solve, the scope you are willing to take on, and the goals of the process improvement effort. There are many different templates you can use but whether simple or complex, you should include those 3 areas.
The SIPOC is a process flow format that helps you to organize the inputs and outputs of your process on a high level. It is useful in outlining the key steps, the involved parties, and what inputs are required to attain the correct output. The SIPOC, or Supplier Input Process Output Customer, is a good first step to take with key stakeholders and performers involved in the process. It allows you to quickly take inventory of what’s happening in your operations and ensures the key steps are well understood. In many cases, the SIPOC (also referred to as a COPIS) can be an eye opening experience for operations leaders as there may very well be steps occurring that are either not documented or not a value add to the business or its customers.
Process Improvement Tools – 5 Why’s
One of the keys to successfully achieving operations improvement is to target your efforts towards the right problem. As you start to peel back the onion looking at your process you will often find more than one issue effecting process performance. This means that you have to be careful to target your improvements to the root cause of the issue or you’ll find yourself in habitual firefighting mode. That can be disastrous for your business process improvement efforts and also for your budget. The idea behind the 5 Why’s is a simple one, keep asking why until you get to the root of the issue.
To achieve operations improvement, you need to both measure the issue and monitor your progress at process improvement. A Pareto Chart is simply a bar chart that sorts the issues or items you are measuring by volume towards the left. The value in doing so is the application of the Pareto Principle or 80-20 rule that says that 80% of your pain is caused by 20% of your problems or in more formal terms, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Ultimately, the Pareto Chart creates an illustration of your process that shows you where to target your business process improvement efforts.
Now that you’ve successfully identified the issue with your process leveraging the above process improvement tools, it’s time to plan the improvement actions you and your team will take to close the gaps. An Action Plan is an integral part of any improvement project to ensure that the actions are clearly outlined, aligned to your stated scope, assigned to owners, and are ultimately time bound to ensure delivery. A typical Action Plan includes the action, short description, action owner, due date, relationship to other actions (dependencies), and the status.
With our improvements now identified and/or in place, you need to turn you focus to sustaining the improvements. A control plan requires that you outline the key process areas, the metrics that reflect positive performance, and the thresholds for performance. If the process exceeds one of the predefined thresholds, you will have already defined what actions you and your team need to take to get the process back under control. By defining the process measurements and actions up front, you can move much quicker to course correct when the process is not performing as it should.
Implementing process improvement tools in your organization
Leveraging these tools in your business just takes some organization and dedication to consistency. Standardizing the way you look at your business will make it faster and easier to understand it and identify ways to continually improve it.