1. Peter Schooff
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  3. Tuesday, May 20 2014, 09:55 AM
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Paul Harmon wrote here:
Roger Tregear wrote a great Column this past month (Continuous Problem Finding) in which he pointed out that most companies talk about 'continuous improvement' without quite facing up to the fact that continuous improvement depends on continuously discovering situations that can be improved.
So in your opinion, what is the key to successful continuous process improvement?
Emiel Kelly Accepted Answer
Introduce a 'continuous improvement day'. For example once a month when there are not so many people in the office. In that case continuous improvement doesn't disturb daily work.
Sharing my adventures in Process World via Procesje.nl
Agree. Experience learns that it's best to close all operations, so the continuous improvement consultants (at a minimum of $200 an hour) can do their job in silence.
  1. Emiel Kelly
  2. 3 years ago
LOL Better still, at a weekend.
  1. Ian Gotts
  2. 3 years ago
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  3. # 1
Ian Gotts Accepted Answer
It should be no surprise that "process improvement" is Level 5 on the Process Maturity curve and most organizations struggle to get beyond Level 3. There are several, very valid, reasons why.

Continuous improvement and compliance are at odds. As most corporations are subject to increasing regulatory compliance, this is a huge barrier to driving change.

Secondly people don't like change so there are huge emotional hurdles.

Finally, to be effective and improvement needs to be applied consistently across the organisation which is a communication challenge.

So, it is not impossible. But it requires huge commitment from the highest levels down, and a relentless focus.

Which leads to the kicker. If all that effort to drive continuous improvement were instead directed at another initiative in the company would they get a better result. The answer is probably "Yes" and the area would be "Customer Experience". Process improvement drives down cost and that has a finite limit to the gains. Customer Experience drives sales and there is no limit to the potential increase.

Hint: If process is going to be adopted and vauled it needs to rebrand itself and be linked to something CEOs really care about: Customers and Revenue
To that last point - improvement should be tied to brand value - and brand value to what customers care about... that alignment will generally lead to customers and revenue!
  1. Scott Francis
  2. 3 years ago
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  3. # 2
Scott Francis Accepted Answer
Blog Writer
I think it is an interesting experiment to apply to a small company that's growing. Might be easier to instill the culture at a small scale and grow it. On the other hand, the company has to scale to make the improvements worthwhile. It takes potentially years to get there. Conversely, a small team within a large organization can prove it out locally and create culture around it. I've seen these seeds planted at a few fortune 500 companies by their work in BPM and with Lean, and it is sticky - the cultural impact is lasting if they are organizations that retain their people well...
Exactly! Based on human nature, it happens in pockets first. Not only where improvement is needed, but where it will be worked on together and adopted. I see this over and over.
  1. George Chast
  2. 3 years ago
I completely agree with Scott that a core BPM group, testing and demonstrating value around customer experience has the best chance of adoption at an organizational level.
  1. Sharmistha Roy
  2. 3 years ago
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  3. # 3
Peter Johnston Accepted Answer
Continuous improvement is not about finding things to improve. It is about maintaining the things you already have. The key is creating the mindset that if you need to resort to step-change you have failed.

Change is normal. In designing anything, if you release it without building in a system so it can adapt and evolve to continue to meet changing needs, then you have only done half your job. The easy bit.
Lazy, aren't you?

The difficult bit comes in working out where the intelligence comes from for that evolving system.
From managers far from the people the system is designed for? Of course not.

It comes from...
Monitoring how well it meets needs and desires and identifying the gaps.
Examining how others achieve the same and, again, identifying the gaps.
Questioning how easy it was for your people and what could make it easier.
Measuring at the resource you used and how much waste you could remove.

Any continuous improvement system must be fed intelligence on these four things.
Monitoring, Examining, Questioning and Measuring.
And the longer the chain between communication and action, the greater the risk it will fall behind.
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 4
Gagan Saxena Accepted Answer
(Taking a systems-view instead of the popular, populist peoples'-view..)

Continuous process improvement lies much deeper in the consideration stack for the average worker. Performance Improvement is top of the mind. More importantly, the worker is likely to feel more in control of his own performance than that of a business process.

Here then is the consideration stack in DESCENDING order of personal importance - and DESCENDING order of personal perceived control.

- My own Performance Metrics, that depends on
- My Decisions, that are made in context of
- My Actions, that are required to execute
- My (department’s) Business Processes

So if you can draw a direct line from my performance metrics to my decisions and then to my (assigned) business processes, I am more likely to pay attention to improving processes on a regular basis. Not only will I have suggestions (and a vested interest) on making the process better but I will be making better decisions so that the current process PERFORMS better.

Decision Models with Decision Model Notation (DMN) standard link Metrics, Decisions and Processes and show the clear, logical reason for me to improve business processes.

(Edit - Fixed typo)
  1. more than a month ago
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David Chassels Accepted Answer
Simple; first must have supporting software that can readily handle change AND users have confidence their ideas can be incorporated might even allow them to make changes. Real time feed back on activity will help spot inefficiencies and is of course a key requirement to empower users which by definition encourages new ideas. Once users "get it" and it is a big culture change from old "IT" ways then the challenge is managing enthusiasm for change!

And so the journey starts for continuous process improvement making the investment in the BPM supporting software future proof. It should also be an enjoyable experience for users seeing their ideas coming to life!
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 6
Peter Franz Accepted Answer
There are many Continuous Improvement (CI) programs that have delivered great results and conversely others that have been like a run-away train - going through the motions of a technique / method; generating tangible costs; but not producing any real business results.

In my experience the difference between the two - put very simply - is FIL. Focus - ensure CI initiatives are focused on the processes that will deliver the most towards achieving the strategic value drivers. Inform - CI initiatives should start with (be informed by) an understanding on prior analysis and improvements that have attacked this process area - rather than starting from a clean sheet of paper. and Learn - capture their learnings to be leveraged by those implementing the change and future improvement initiatives engaged in this area.

A simple intent but so often overlooked. Understanding the broader Business Process Management Discipline (BPM-D<sup>TM</sup>;) provides a framework for ensuring this structure is in place. See the summary in the URL below.
  1. http://www.bpm-d.com/framework/
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Stuart Chandler Accepted Answer
Blog Writer
Yes, Discovery is the guiding principle for continuous process improvement. However, to be successful, I believe there are three core elements to continuous process improvement initiatives;

1- A process champion- in either the form of a person or COE group that has buy-in from the organization to lead and insure process focus is an actionable discipline

2- Framework- to view, analyze and measure processes. This framework must adapt to rapid change, ie. consume and understand change as well as read out the change in useable metrics for value interpretation

3-Mechanism- to implement change, ie. change management and technology to enable change.

Without these, nothing gets done
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E Scott Menter Accepted Answer
Blog Writer
This is the kind of question that appeals to people who love formalism, especially the kind with cute, unpronounceable mnemonics like "DMAIC".

I'm not one of those people.

BPM has taken a lot of the guesswork out of process improvement. A solid BPM platform will reliably yield data on bottlenecks and other performance issues, thus shining a pretty bright light on where to focus one's efforts. Here's an illustration of that phenomenon:

http://www.bplogix.com/images/icon-x-medium.png Scott
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 9
Emiel Kelly Accepted Answer
Continuous improvement. Sounds cool. But also like very vague consultancy and Linkedin-group talk.

So I think it should always start with making very clear what 'improved' means.

Does it mean faster? Cheaper? Less defects? More flexible? More compliant? Without knowing this, how can you know that you improved? Let alone how.

And another thing, I think that is important; on what level do you look at improvement?

At the highest level by the profit (margin) of your organization?
At the process level (the performance after executing a few cases)?
At the case level (was that case executed ok? )
At the task level (did the employee executed the step as agreed? )

As a process crazy person I would choose the process level, because it connects tasks, individual cases to the company level.

If your processes keep on screwing up for individual cases, you will finally see it in your profit(margin)

Having said that, I think it all should start with making very clear 'the promise' of each process in your organization. In that way you at least made clear what is 'good'. Doesn't mean everybody starts improving immediately, but at least it is transparent to what they are contributing.

e.a: Pizza's delivered < 30 minutes or problems solved < 24 hours for free, customer leaves building with clear answer, etc.

To make it more transparent and 'real' I should try to set up some monitoring, so that it is possible for everyone to see if cases are on track, what's the status etc.

It's for that that I always use the metaphor of a gps system. First you enter what you think is good (I wanna get to Amsterdam fast) .

Then you start executing your process (the trip) and you can see if you're still on track.

But what's monitoring without a way to act when things aren't going well? Useless. So the most important of course is that the process players are coached to act in the right way. So they should be told about the aspects that make a process perform and their responsibility and authority to act upon that.

And that's probably still the biggest issue: People act upon what they are paid or punished for. If you have a target-focused manager that wants you to meet deadlines for your tasks (you should bake pizza's within 5 minutes, no matter what the taste will be!), you can imagine continuous improvement is just another illusion.

So the most important is to synchronize employee judgement with process goals. It sounds a little artificial, but in the end people need some kind of incentive, because only 2.96 % of all the people is a 'process thinker'.
Sharing my adventures in Process World via Procesje.nl
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 10
Consider your enterprise as a system of processes ( see http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.ch/2014/03/enterprise-as-system-of-processes.html ).

Priority of improvements is in the business hands and should be linked to the business strategic initiatives, e.g. “governance and accountability” or “regional integration”.

Improvements should be in the context of global optimisation not just “what can be improved”.

The focus of an improvement may be different – activity, functional process, monitoring process, operational process, governance process or cluster of processes.

The goal of an improvement may be different – shorter SLA, less rework, less manual monitoring, faster governance.

In general, improvements “trajectory” in an enterprise is similar to a ball trajectory in a pinball machine. Your business execution platform (which comprises BPM, BRM, ECM, ERP, etc.) must be architected to allow many balls running in parallel without conflicts.

All improvements must be transparent and traceable.

Adapt your talk to roles and cultures.

  1. more than a month ago
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Jose Camacho Accepted Answer
The key to continuous improvement of processes is its alignment with the business strategy, which must itself be continuously adjustable to variations of the environment, whether based on capturing the experience with clients such as the anticipated perception of other variables that reflect new market trends.

With this approach the limits of procedural improvements is equal to the limit of the variations of the environment, in other words, there is no limit.

What in my view makes no sense, is going to demand improvements in processes without a clear business strategy. For example, focus on the procedural improvements in terms of costs, when the predominant strategy is innovation and quality, or invest strategically in terms of closeness and intimacy with customers, and processually investing in packages of products/services and launching mass campaigns.

For a complete understanding, see:
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  3. # 12
Anatoly Belaychuk Accepted Answer
Blog Writer
Only the paranoids do continuos process improvement.
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Brad Power Accepted Answer
The key to continuous improvement is that there is no key, there are lots of keys that need to be in concert.

Achieving and sustaining continuous improvement depends on systemic, cultural changes on many dimensions. This discussion has highlighted many. I've gathered 36 ideas from a variety of companies which I categorized using the 7S framework (strategy, structure, systems, shared values, style, staff, and skills).
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 14
John Morris Accepted Answer
The "varieties of process experience" are all collected here; I'm tempted to bring up the old chestnut story of the elephant and the blind-folded people, each of whom senses one aspect of the elephant. So I will add "economics".

If an organization exists in the world environment as an economic entity, size and scope determined by transaction costs, then that organization will persist insofar as it successfully adapts to environmental change and competitive challenges. And as the raison d'etre of the organization is the work it performs, successful adaptation means continuously refining the business processes which are about that work. And in turn, if that on-going improvement is to happen, the organization must continually "sense" the environment, as per the original question, in other words, "finding new problems".

This description of the adaptive organization is short and compatible with systems theory. Whether a real organization can behave like the ideal is a separate question; many organizations exist more for the benefit of incumbent staff than for the work to be performed. In that case, the organization may be characterized by "rent-seeking" and may act as a local monopoly. But it might not be as good at sensing and adapting.
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George Chast Accepted Answer
I see Continuous Process Improvement happening in many organizations. It happens in pockets. That is a natural course for change. One of the most positive trends I see is the merging of the Six Sigma/Lean teams with Process Improvement teams who now embrace both scientific methods and automation where appropriate. Many of these teams have come out of the dark corners where they were relegated before and are finding champions in those pockets. They are making a difference there and leaving behind trained Green Belts in those business areas. More and more, these teams are getting involved in both business and technology projects, both as part of a formal program and by request. One of them told me they previously had two ways to improve work before, throw labor at it or build applications. Now, they have added a real analytical look at work. This shows that process culture is catching in these organizations. And, they are helping to introduce process and decision automation when feasible. Maybe it does not move the needle quickly enough on Enterprise Process Maturity but these customers have shown me a key to continuous process improvement in the real world.
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