Process Improvement Management

- concepts governing the management of process improvement and the changes it can cause.

When embarking on any process improvement strategy, it is essential that he management of the process is undertaken sensitively and carefully.

Adopting the correct process improvement management strategy will ensure a far better outcome.

Often people fear change and what it may bring, and therefore managing the process improvement changes carefully will ensure that people are positive and see the benefits, rather than being cautious and wary about the changes it may bring.

Process improvement management culture

One of the major factors affecting any process improvement initiative is the management culture that is maintained within the company. It is key to ensuring the success of any initiative that may be launched.

Some of the key management culture aspects required to enable these initiatives to be successful include:

  • No blame culture:   Possibly one of the most important elements of process improvement management culture is the blame issue. People will not be willing to fall issues if they feel there will be blame attached. It is found that most employees are conscientious and will not normally want to make mistakes. A positive no-blame culture normally makes people want to improve issues rather than hiding them away.
  • Team empowerment:   Another very positive process improvement management culture point is to allow teams to have the ability to have the responsibility (within certain defined bounds) to act to improve issues. Allowing people to do this provides incentive and involvement in the company or organisation.
  • Employee involvement:   Allowing employees to be involved in improving items. By management taking on board ideas from the employees enables the whole company or organisation to act as more of a team. This provides significant motivation to undertake issues such as process improvement.

Key process improvement management decisions

There are several key decisions that need to be made when managing a process improvement system.

  • Identification of suitable process:   One of the key process improvement management decisions is to identify a suitable process for improvement. The choice will depend upon many factors including the chances of success, especially if it is an early in in a programme of process improvement; the people operating the process; likely benefits to the company or organisation in comparison to the likely outlay; likely timescales; etc.
  • Linkage of goals to those of overall organisation:   Often a top-down approach will be taken to process improvement. As a result, the choice of process will depend upon the flow-down of the goals for the overall organisation.
  • Training:   While many of the fundamentals of process improvement are fairly straightforward, training for all staff is essential. Training is a key process improvement management enabler. By providing the required training, not only will their skill-set be more in line with that required for process improvement, but also they will be motivated by the fact that the company wants to train them.
  • Team empowerment:   It is also important for the management of a company or organisation to empower their employees. Enabling them to make decisions will help the whole process improvement process and also make the employees more committed. It is a key process improvement management stage to enable the teams and employees to be empowered, while still having the correct checks and balances in place to ensure that the process does not run out of control.

Process ownership

When undertaking a process improvement, one management question is to determine the process ownership. In this way, when there are ideas about improvement, they can be taken to a suitable point of contact.

There should normally be one individual, often termed the "process owner" who is ultimately responsible and accountable for the effective working of the process The process owner is the immediate supervisor or leader who has control over the entire process from beginning to end.

Often the process owner will may choose to be the team leader for the process improvement and participate directly in the actions of a process improvement team. It is also possible that the process owner may decide to delegate the team leadership role to someone else. This person should generally be knowledgeable about the process.

Which ever route is adopted, the process owner must stay in very close contact with the process improvement team's progress and the actions they are taking.

By Ian Poole

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