How to Choose, Prioritise, Define, and Manage, Process Improvement Projects
None of us has enough resources to throw at every process opportunity the business identifies. How then, do leading organisations define and prioritise their process improvement projects (note process improvement may mean BPM, Lean, Six Sigma, BPMS or other). There is no right way but there are plenty of wrong ways. Here is a brief description of the two approaches that we encounter most frequently in process-winning organisations.
Organisations with lower process maturity levels: 1-2
Organisations with Higher Maturity levels: 3-5
- Undertake a gap analysis between the organisation's strategic goals and the current performance. This is best undertaken in a workshop with senior management to ensure consensus, transparency and buy-in to prioritisation decisions. The priority is established by determining where the gap between 'current performance' and 'desired performance' is biggest. This is the area where you want to focus your scarce expert resources.
Where there are more resources available than required for the priority one project, then continue to allocate resources on the 'next biggest performance gap' until all available resources are consumed. If you have multiple projects, be sure to implement a standard process improvement methodology or you will just invent a new type of chaos that will need sorting out later.
- Now define the process vision for the 'to be' process so that there is no ambiguity about the desired improvement, and communicate in your own house style to the entire business, and then step back and allow the process improvement team to get on with its work.
Example of a good process vision statement:
"BPT Delivery's Deliver Ground Packages will be the preferred delivery service for ground delivery anywhere in the area it serves.
Deliveries will be picked-up and delivered on the day promised, in their original condition, to the correct location.
The target measures for the Deliver Ground Packages process are:
- On Time Delivery: >99%
- Goods Damaged: <1%
- Incorrect Delivery Rate: <.5%"
Source: BPTrends Associates
- Employ a standard process improvement methodology across all improvement projects, ensuring full visibility of the status of the project and undertake 'milestone' reviews at each phase.
(see phases in figure 1 below):
Figure 1. BPTrends Assocites: Process Improvement Project Phases and Outcomes
- Follow the structured methodology and Understand, Analyse, Redesign, Implement, Execute the new Process. Note that regular reviews of the process measures after implementation will confirm that the process is working properly or, if the results are less than expected, the measures will provide an early warning sign of problems which the process manager will resolve.
More mature organisations will take a 'balanced portfolio' approach to prioritising process improvement, spreading process improvement projects across various criteria e.g. strategic - new product development; operational excellence; cost-reduction; customer intimacy; compliance etc.
These projects can then slot into the company Project Management Office Portfolio where they will be subjected to on-going management review, or they will be subject to oversight by an BPM Centre of Excellence that is sponsored by an executive manager.
This approach builds on the process training, process methodology and tools implemented when the organisation was at a lower level of maturity.