Overview Of Process Improvement

Basic Business Cents

People never seem to have enough time to do things right, but they always have time to do things over. This does not make sense on the surface, but it is what I have observed over time working with many organizations. It is true that performance improvement activities take time, which is precious to the small business, but that time can be found by simplifying systems and processes.

A process improvement activity has three elements, simplify, improve, and sustain.


The performance improvement objective is to reduce waste, rework, and redundancy. The first step is to take an overview of the organization and draw a chart of the main systems, starting with the entering to your organization of the goods from your suppliers to the exiting of your goods/services going out the door to your customers. You may have parallel paths of product lines A, B, C or services A, B, and retail. Examine the chart yourself, observe how it works in the actual work area, share it with employees actually working in the systems, and look for ways to reduce cost, minimize time, and improve the quality of the system. Eliminate unnecessary steps, distance traveled, redundancy, wait time, obsolescence, and stockpiles of inventory.

When you are satisfied you have done what you can to simplify the overview, go down to the next layer of detail until you get to the detail of individual items for each worker in their work processes. The more you streamline your systems, the more time you and your workers will have to further improve the operation. Eliminate rework by doing it right the first time. Improve processes to the point that they cannot make defective products/services.


Two types of activities are needed, solve problems and improve processes. In both cases, workers need to be trained and given authority to act. Problems should be identified and resolved and not allowed to hang over the heads of the workers. Processes should continually be improved; there is always a better way. Collect data to show the problem is real or the process is improved and make decision on facts whenever possible. Tools and methods are available for conditions, where data is available and where it is not. Involve all the employees in the performance improvement quest.


Not to be overlooked is the importance of sustaining improvement progress. Changes should be documented and communicated throughout the areas affected. Follow-up by observing adherence to the new ways and not allow backsliding into the comfortable way of “that is the way we have always done it”.

In order to be ahead, you have to get ahead. Keep reducing waste, rework, and redundancy as a way of life. Organizational performance improvement effort must be continued relentlessly forever in order to survive and prosper.