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The 5 Not-So-Simple Steps to Process Improvement

Frankly, there are many more than 5 steps to process improvement. These five 'not-so-simple' steps are the foundation or the pillars of how improvement materializes.

There are countless books, academic studies and courses on process improvement: they all have these 5 steps in common.


Although this first step may seem simple, it may be the most difficult of the five. Generally, companies believe they're doing everything as best they can and "there is no other way" to do it. This step requires the support of management to lead the way, create teams, define roles, expectations and standards and be an example of change leadership.

Then, together, they can proceed to identify process issues that require attention based on process mapping, customer complaints, internal complaints, audits, and so on. The step concludes when management and change teams agree on a particular problem and that it can be documented and changed for the better.


This step begins with process mapping and identifying possible causes of the identified process problem. Process flow charts and diagrams help the team document and understand what the process is achieving, what its value is, and what the results could be if the process was changed. The metrics by which everything will be analyzed are defined and final assumptions about causes are crystalized.


This is quite an ambitious undertaking. Alternative solutions are discussed, analyzed and further process maps and charts are created to help re-design a new, more efficient process. Benchmarks and best practices are compared until a final solution is agreed upon by the entire team.


Without this step, the first three don't really matter. An implementation plan is created and support for following through must be gained by all departments involved and affected by the changes. All involved know that the implementation will be an ongoing process of evaluation and adjustments.

Once the planning is done, it is implemented - seems fairly straightforward but this can be a very traumatic undertaking for those involved. Leadership is essential for the teams to follow through to completion.


Evaluation is continuous and progressive. It is never really complete because evaluation and analysis will reveal concerns and issues that must be handled. Comparisons against initial benchmark data are monitored and improvements are made when and where necessary.


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