4 business process improvement tools to lift your game
Many ways exist to improve business processes – some more effective than others. We’ve even talked about a few on this blog, including the Five Whys, SIPOC and Process Mapping.
In this blog, we will take a deeper dive into the world of process improvement - highlighting 4 process improvement tools that can help you make a greater impact. Whenever you are considering embarking on a process improvement initiative, firstly get your head around the goals of the exercise. What’s the problem? Why does something need to be done? What does good look like? Once you have answered these questions, consider these proven process improvement tools and how they could make the impact you’re looking for.
Value Stream Mapping
If you need to understand how work is flowing through a process, what steps are performed, what is adding value and what is not – value stream mapping is the process improvement tool. The best way to perform value stream mapping is by following a sample of transactions as they flow through the process from beginning to end, tally the time spent on value-adding tasks (creating, building, ordering, processing, etc.) versus non-value-adding tasks (waiting, storing, travelling, fixing, holding, re-working, etc.). From here, effort can be prioritized to reduced to highest volume of non-value adding activities. We'll shortly be offering a guide and template for Value Stream Mapping - stay tuned. Better yet, subscribe to our Newsletter to get notified when it comes available.
Jidoka is a philosophy and a very practical form of visual management with a specific aim of lifting operational performance through better performing processes. The philosophy essentially states that any process should be operated by people who are empowered to call out when the process is not performing optimally. They are also empowered to stop the process when something is not right. From a practical standpoint, a Jidoka board allows process issues or improvement ideas to be identified by anyone involved in the process and then voted-on by fellow process operators or users. A very simple, but powerful way to instil an “always can be better” mindset and empower teams to raise issues and ideas as they see them. More details and ready-to-use templates for Jidoka are available in our Management Consultant Toolkit.
Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is a powerful and proven method focused on trapping process errors before they occur. Developed in the manufacturing industry, it is particularly prominent in industries where failure is costly or even catastrophic. That said, FMEA is useful in any process scenario where it's important to understand what errors could occur and prevent the most material ones from occurring. FMEA uses a structured methodology for assessing error likelihood, severity, detectability and controllability. Working through the process produces a Risk Prioritization Number – knowing this, one can then systematically target the highest ranking potential errors for designing and implementing preventative measures. More details on FMEA including a ready-to-use template can be found in our Management Consultant Toolkit.
Pain Point Analysis
This method is a more visual, qualitative when compared to a technique like FMEA, which is very quantitative. As such, pain point analysis lends itself well to a workshop environment or when communicating process issues to an executive audience. Pain point analysis is best used after working through a detailed process mapping exercise which provides a sound basis for understanding how things currently operate. From here, process gaps can be identified and worked-through using a pain point analysis. At the heart of pain point analysis are 3 elements: frequency of the pain point; impact of the pain point; and how these elements are expected to change over time (worse, better, stay the same). Our Management Consultant Toolkit explains pain point analysis in more detail and includes a great template for using this technique.
A simple pain point analysis framework
Knowing these tools and techniques, you will be equipped to make just about any process run better - whatever “better” looks like: productivity, efficiency, control, cost, speed, quality or customer advocacy. Don't forget: better needs to be holistic and balanced. Making one aspect improve to the detriment of another is not effective process improvement.
Go a make a greater impact!
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