Jumpstarting Process Improvement in Your Organization: The Top 10 Essentials (Part 1 of 10) – Jason Kilgore

Every organization wants a competitive edge.  Increasingly, we are all looking for ways to improve quality and cut costs.  Many successful groups have turned to process improvement as a means to that end.  But the questions most often asked are, “How do we get started? How much does it cost?  And, what can we expect in return?” Most agree that process improvement programs done correctly require a fair amount of up front effort to maximize the impact.  In this series of blog posts, I’ll provide some perspective on the Top Ten Essentials, keys to jumpstarting and sustaining process improvement in your organization.

Top Ten Essentials:

  1. Written goals of the company’s process improvement effort
  2. Commitment to continuous improvement from the top
  3. Clearly defined rules and metrics for success
  4. A sufficient organizational hierarchy
  5. Dedicated process improvement specialist(s)
  6. Strategy for finding and retaining the best people
  7. A well-funded training budget
  8. Methods for communicating with the entire organization
  9. Established process improvement methodology
  10. Feedback loops between management and staff

We’ll look at each one of these in a little more detail in each of the next nine blog posts.  Still, I’m only scratching the surface.  There are many operational details that go into making these essentials actionable and successful.  With some thought, effort, and ingenuity, you can use these ideas to hardwire process improvement success.

Essential #1:  A written philosophy of the company’s process improvement effort.  The first question a company’s leadership must answer is, “Why do we need a process improvement initiative?”  This is critical because, generically speaking, process improvement can be applied to almost any business aspect, such as cost, quality, delivery, market share, employee satisfaction – to name a few.   Without a second thought, we all want “All of the above.”  And while “all of the above” could be an outcome eventually, the goals and objectives tied to “all of the above” are much to broad.  Initially, the philosophy (or mission) should address a short- to mid-term need in which immediate success is both critical and measureable.

For this reason, I might suggest that the springboard for a process improvement effort to be cost or quality.  In the new economy, one that drives all businesses toward commoditization, cost and quality resonate both with the consumer and with the key stakeholders. Both are measureable, both are highly visible, and both are inarguably critical to success.

Softer targets such as employee morale is a tough sell to those making decisions about investment dollars.  While the softer aspects of process improvement are just as important to the overall health of the company, they require a much more esoteric approach to calculate return on investment dollars.  Therefore, initiating a process improvement program with more concrete objectives will pave the way for quick, decisive, and early wins.  – Jason Kilgore