The Future of Driving Process Improvement in the Organization

Further to my earlier post on ‘Funny example of process Improvement -The Soap Factory problem’ I am toying with the idea of how to harness the power that front liners bring to processes, and how that can be made fun!

Process Improvement quotient is the true indicator of longevity for any business. It's their biggest bet to secure the future.

Traditionally, there have been many approaches to drive process improvement. In this post, I will present some of my observation on what's going right and what can be done.

Tool-Based Approach

We all have seen numerous attempts to leverage tools for process improvement - TQM, Kaizen, CMMI, Six Sigma, Lean … and much more.

Here are some implementation realities that render this approach low on ROI.

Expensive to deploy: It is usually nurtured in an intervention driven environment with dedicated organization rigor: ‘Six Sigma Week’ Theme of the month: Process Improvement style approach. Takes up management time and resource to run it like an event, creating buzz around it, and of course working hard to making it look good in the end.

Not a sustainable design: by the nature of its implementation design only time bound results are enjoyed. As soon as organization rigor goes down the motivation to carry on improvement on continuous basis goes down too. The focus is on tools and its implementation that results in Lengthy/Elaborate time-consuming documentation that turns it into an academic exercise rather than a business one.

Value Creation - Reward is skewed: The equation of achievement and reward is loosely balanced, there is a little reward (monitory), achievement in terms of value creation is not quantified for effective performance review, making this intervention style approach a little bit of a liability.

Hiring Consultant/Specialist or Process Improvement Champions

No competence improvement: Hiring consultants from outside may be a good idea in the short term, but the competence needle of organization doesn't move on the scale to lead from where consultant leave.

Expensive: Needless to say businesses pay heavily for such interventions.

Positioning in-house Champions

No matter how much the organization may like, their job turns out to be less of a development of tactical ideas, but enablement of teams to produce ideas. Often these profiles are inadequately empowered with poor ecosystem support. Leaving for the individual to lead against the odds.

So how will process improvement look like in the future?

What will it take for businesses to create an effectivelong term strategy for continuous process improvement?

Well, here are some key concepts that businesses will put together in their unique ways to make continuous process improvement, their true differentiator in the marketplace.

Get People-Focused - Not Tool Focused: Tools are enablers not drivers. Motivated workforce applying common sense and simple tools can do wonders.

Keep it Fun, Not Academic: Keep it simple, make it less cumbersome, reduce documentation, encourage prototyping.

Change mindset: 'Hiring help' to 'we can do it'. A conviction that no one knows your business like you do, and people who work their work are capable of generating all the ideas you will ever need.

Think bottom-up not top-down: build your process improvement strategy that is sustainable, a proposition and experience so compelling that organization does not need to set up rigor around it. Think Auto Pilot!

Invest in culture building, not interventions: Again, think autopilot after take-off!

Commit to people empowerment: So you like structure and like to micromanage- think this: You can't drive people to process improvement for a long time, but people can continuously drive process improvement for you if they want to, so let them.

Encourage play for all: An open field for the idea creators to collaborate, invest in a transparent system to manage ideas. Let this be the pivot of engagement activities.

Commit to profit sharing generated from ideas: Don't scream entrepreneurial culture. Show them that you mean it. Make it real!