Process Improvement Plan in Eight Steps

This tool describes an eight step process improvement plan. Each step is defined, along with hints for ensuring quality of execution in each phase. This is an invaluable tool for leaders who want to improve a business process and assure themselves of success from planning through implementation.

Hint: This tool is best used in conjunction with “How To Succeed at Business Process Improvement.”

1. Define

Establish the overall objective and reasons for improvement; define the current and target state of the process. (Hint: Ensure that the team responsible for ultimately implementing change is involved in this initial step.)

2. Communicate

Communicate the desired end state and the rationale for change to all internal stakeholders (and external stakeholders as necessary). Ensure that there is broad understanding of the rationale and the benefits of change before you begin. (Hint: Most organizations skip this step, resulting in half-hearted implementation.)

3. Map

Map the “as-is process,” measure and analyze the current performance. (Hint: make sure the map shows the start point, end point, key hand-off points, and typical time expended in each step.)

4. Plan

Identify and verify root causes of current failure to meet target state, generate and select solutions, and map a proposed new process. (Hint: The most dramatic process improvements occur at hand-off points, by empowering employees to make more decisions themselves and by eliminating “checkpoint” steps.)

5. Test Drive

Communicate the proposed change to a broader group of stakeholders and solicit feedback. To the extent possible, engage in a “test drive” of the new process to see whether the envisioned efficiencies materialize. Identify additional improvements, refine, and prepare for rollout.

6. Implement

Plan, execute and monitor the implementation. (Hint: Ensure that the implementation team has benchmarks for assessing its own performance, including a schedule of milestones and deadlines.)

7. Evaluate

Evaluate the result of the implementation and compare it to the target state defined earlier.

8. Standardize

Plan for further improvements of the process. (Hint: A seasoned process improvement team can serve as internal consultant and translate its success to other areas of the organization.)

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