Process Improvement

Often the deepest changes in organizations are ones that make work less confusing, easier to understand, and simpler to accomplish. Much of the excessive cost and complexity of modern work can be reduced or eliminated through process improvement. We teach and consult about process improvement in three ways.

First, we conduct independent assessments of an organization’s major processes, through interviews of its people and examinations of its workplace, technology, records, and reports. We also often interview customers and suppliers who participate in these processes. Then we recommend methods to improve these processes to increase quality, reduce cost, and improve delivery.

Second, we teach the principles of lean thinking and lean methods to make processes efficient, effective, and replicable. We especially find that executives and managers benefit from learning these ideas and methods so they can build a vision of a company or department that is more nimble and responsive to customers and market demands.

Third, and often our favorite way, we conduct Rapid Process Improvement (RPI) workshops. By combining learning with doing, and focusing efforts in intense five-day periods, RPI workshops provide rapid analysis and implementation of process changes. For these workshops we insist on the “Three Actuals.” We go to the actual place, work with the actual people, on the actual process. Processes are analyzed and diagrammed, walked and timed, then radically improved to more efficient, more humane, and less costly processes by people that will implement the new processes the next week!

Approaches to process improvement often include efforts to:

  • Map current and future process flows, including where to measure improvements
  • Separate value-added from non-value-added activities
  • Reduce cycle time, process steps, inspections, errors, handoffs, and waste
  • Install visual controls and implement 5-S
  • Measure and increase customer focus
  • Assure continuous flow of products and services
  • Convert “push” to “pull” systems of production, distribution, and services