Leading Business Improvement

Process Improvement Plans: An all-inclusive 8 step guide

Process Improvement Plans A step by step guide

Process improvement is a powerful methodology and approach which IF applied correctly, can yield some fantastic results for your organization. It is the activity of looking at a process, identifying where there is waste and challenges and identifying plans to remove these. It is the effort to streamline operations, removing the unnecessary and non-value adding. It is the way in which you can deliver your products, services and outputs better, faster and in greater numbers.

To ensure you can reap the benefits and the rewards of process improvement, you need to deliver it well. That is where the process improvement plan comes in. With this plan, you have the structure, the rigour and the right approach clearly laid out for you to follow. It enables you to drop into it what you need, the teams you will be operating with and the tasks and activities you feel you need to follow in order to achieve what you want to achieve.

In this article, we will run through a common process improvement plan, one that will take you from start to finish in a clear, step-by-step way. To conduct the work needed, this plan does so in 8 stages: Define, Plan, Map, Analysis, Improvement, Preparation, Deployment and Control. Let’s explore the plan in more detail now, looking at what each stage entails and a breakdown of the activities you need to follow.

Process Improvement Plans: The detailed plan for delivery

Define

First stage – Define   We will use this time to define the current situation. This will involve: Analysing current datasets to understand any trends in the problems faced. Interviewing team members to understand their perspectives and experiences.Interviewing end users of the Procurement Department’s services to understand their experiences.   We will leave this stage crystal clear on the problems, the experiences and the processes in scope.  

The items below can be used as a checklist of items to work through as part of this initiative. They can also be added to your initiative plan by your Initiative Manager to work through throughout your initiative with timelines and deliverables assigned to them.

Activities to conduct

This will include customer feedback/complaints 
Reach out to those who can provide said data 
Collect relevant data requiredThis will include customer feedback / complaints
Analyse the data collected 
Baseline the data collected 
Identify trends in the data analysed 
Present back the findings 
Define the scope of the initiative 
Identify key stakeholders within the teamIncluding Management
Identify key stakeholders impactedStakeholder analysis
Interview all stakeholdersThese interviews will include pre-set, targeted questions to get the information needed
Redefine scope if new information emerges 
Pull together a VOC survey for end usersVoice of the customer survey
Send out the VOC survey with a 2-week deadline 
Send out the VOC survey with 2-week deadline 
Analyse survey results 
Analyse feedback results and combine the two 
Redefine scope if new information emerges 
Build out your Initiative CharterThis will identify scope, problem, risks etc.

At the end of this stage, the key deliverables will be:

  • Voice of the customer analysis.
  • Well-defined scope.
  • An initiative charter.

Process Improvement Plans - The detailed plan for delivery - Second stage – Plan

Plan

Second stage – Plan   We will use this time to plan out what needs to be done in this initiative. This will involve: Identifying any additional activities that need to be completed outside of this list. Plotting all activities in an initiative plan.Assigning the tasks to owners, scheduling the timeframe and scheduling updates.   We will leave this stage with a clear plan of what needs to be done, when and by whom.  

Activities to conduct

Identify the needs of the team 
Speak with key stakeholders & teams 
Identify who will join the initiative teamFairly simple task as others will identify
Review this list of activities to complete 
Identify any gaps, based on work done so far 
Transfer all activities over to a initiative plan 
List out the activities in the order to be done 
Add timeframes to each activityThis can be numbers or a Gantt Chart
Transfer all activities over to an initiative plan 
When complete, communicate the plan outAssign each task to an owner
Schedule the relevant update meetings 
Build and schedule the status update 

At the end of this stage, the key deliverables will be:

  • The final initiative team.
  • A complete initiative plan.
  • Update meetings scheduled.
Process Improvement Plans - The detailed plan for delivery - Third stage – Map

Map

Third stage – Map   We will use this time to map out the current problems the team is facing. This will involve: Mapping the current state processes via process mapping workshops. Identifying on the maps where the problems are occurring.Making the data we have graphical and visual.   We will leave this stage with a clear visual of all in-scope processes, problems and data.  

Activities to conduct

List out all of the processes in scope 
Identify who needs to attend which workshop 
Schedule the workshops 
In the invites, detail the agenda of the workshops 
Run the process mapping workshopsHave a facilitator, good mapping software etc.
Map out: The workflow All activities. All handoffs. Who is involved? Which systems are involved? 
Run through the processes to check 
Ensure the maps are colour-coded 
Plot on the maps where these are occurring 
Plot the extent of the problemEnsure the maps are colour-coded
Discuss/bring up problems identified before 
Ensure the maps are colour codedThe size and scope of certain parts.
Conduct process analysis 
Identify rework loops or bottlenecks 
Highlight risks 
Highlight opportunities for improvement 
Close workshops 
Red – Green depending on the size of issue 
Finalise maps 

At the end of this stage, the key deliverables will be:

  • Fully detailed, end-to-end process maps.
  • A visual representation of the problem faced.
  • A visual representation of all key data mapped.
Process Improvement Plans - The detailed plan for delivery - Fourth stage – Analysis

Analysis

Fourth stage – Analysis   We will use this time to understand why the problems are occurring. This will involve: Root cause analysis workshops to understand the why behind the problems. Understand the potential causes and land on the actual causes. Gap analysis of current state processes compared with potential future state processes.   We will leave this stage knowing exactly why the problems have been occurring, armed with a list of causes and knowledge of what waste exists, where and the potential to remove it.  

Activities to conduct

Review data and conversations had so far 
List out all problems and issues identified 
Pareto Chart the issuesThis will identify if 80% of the issues are being generated by 20% of the causes
IF many issues to address, prioritise 
IF not many issues to address, include all 
Identify who needs to be in future workshopsThese will be the root cause analysis workshops
Schedule root cause analysis workshops 
In the invites, detail the agenda of the workshops 
Run the RCA workshops 
Pareto Charts the issuesTools to include fishbone diagram, 5 whys, drill down etc.
Identify who needs to be in future workshops 
Schedule detailed analysis workshops 
In the invites, detail the agenda of the workshops 
Run the detailed analysis workshops 
In the workshops: Plot on the process maps where improvements and opportunities can be found. Plot the root causes. Explain, in detail, why the improvements will happen there.This will help in the future improvement workshops to come in the next phase of the initiative.
Close workshopsAll issues must have causes associated with them

At the end of this stage, the key deliverables will be:

  • All problems are root causes.
  • Actual causes identified.
  • Process maps containing further information.
Process Improvement Plans - The detailed plan for delivery - Fifth stage – Improvement

Improvement

Fifth stage – Improvement   We will use this time to identify the solutions and changes needed. This will involve A workshop to identify all potential improvements to address waste and productivity. A workshop to identify all potential solutions to be deployed to address problems. Work through the maps to transfer potential to actual that will be deployed.   We will leave this stage knowing exactly the changes and improvements to be delivered and which ones have been parked for now.  

Activities to conduct

Identify who needs to be in future workshopsThese will be improvement workshops
Schedule improvement workshops 
In the invites, detail the agenda of the workshops 
Run the improvement workshops 
In the workshops: Identify all waste within the process Identify all opportunities present Identify the improvements you want 
Identify who needs to be in future workshops 
Schedule solutions workshops 
In the invites, detail the agenda of the workshops 
Run the solutions workshops 
In the workshops: Identify all potential solutions. Plot these within the processes.These are to fix the problems and issues we have been seeing.
Schedule mapping workshops 
In the invites, detail the agenda of the workshops 
Run the mapping workshops 
In the workshops: Identify all potential solutions within the processesThese will be the proposed future state maps to be deployed in the business.
Close workshops 
Take maps away to amend and finalise 
Send maps out for review 

At the end of this stage, the key deliverables will be:

  • All improvements and solutions identified and mapped.
  • Future state process maps completed.
Process Improvement Plans - The detailed plan for delivery - Sixth stage – Preparation

Preparation

Sixth stage – Preparation   We will use this time to get the processes and teams ready to go LIVE. This will involve: Test the improvements and solutions using dummy data and scenarios. Pilot testing the changes using a small sample size. Plan for the full go LIVE of the changes, including an implementation plan.   We will leave this stage with full confidence that the changes and improvements are the correct ones and will land well on day 1 of going LIVE.  

Activities to conduct

Build a testing plan 
Gather and set up the dummy data and processes 
Set up the test scenarios 
Run the test scenarios 
Analyse the results of the test scenarios 
Repeat the testing as many times as needed 
Schedule the pilot test 
Choose the small sample to test 
Identify who will be involved in this testing 
Communicate out what this will entail 
Run the pilot testing 
Review the results of the pilot testing 
Repeat the test as many times as needed 
Fix any issues identified 
Close the testing 
Update future state process maps to NEW Add in any changes made 
Build the implementation plan 
Communicate out the implementation plan 
Schedule any meetings, sessions required 

At the end of this stage, the key deliverables will be:

  • Testing and piloting results document.
  • An implementation plan.
  • All new process maps.
Process Improvement Plans - The detailed plan for delivery - Seventh stage – Deployment

Deployment

Seventh stage – Deployment   We will use this time to deploy the solutions and changes needed. This stage may take some time, depending on the types of improvement. This will involve:   Deploying the changes as per the implementation plan built in stage 6. Ensuring Change Management is in check.Communicating out the changes to all.   We will leave this stage with all improvements and changes deployed and the new situation LIVE.  

Activities to conduct

Activate the implementation plan 
Deploy all process changes as per that plan 
Communicate out that the work is happening 
Monitor the performance throughout delivery: Keep an eye on dataKeep an eye on feedback 
Ensure all change is managed efficiently 
Build out communications to send throughout 
Send out comms before, during and afterCommunication is absolutely critical here.
Ensure new process maps are readily available 
Formally close the implementation stage 

At the end of this stage, the key deliverables will be:

  • New processes/changes LIVE.
  • All teams and departments are well-informed.
Process Improvement Plans - The detailed plan for delivery - Eighth stage – Control

Control

Eighth stage – Control   We will use this time to ensure the changes deployed will last. This will involve: Adding the right controls into the amended processes (if not already done). Set up the tracking/control charts to analyse long-term performance data. Compare the performance of the new processes with the original baseline data. Communicate out benefits realisation.   We will leave this stage with the business improvement initiative now completed and closed with full confidence the changes we have made will last the test of time.  

Activities to conduct

Please note, that some of the work around building in controls to the processes would have already been done. If so, you can pass over those steps.

Identify where controls may be requiredSend out the benefits realisation piece Including benefits of initiative outcome of all work doneBaseline vs. new performance data
Build out a control plan 
Work to add these controls in 
This will be based on work done so far and the performance of new processes so far. 
If required, tighten said controls 
IF controls are already in place, assess the need to tighten these 
Compare baseline data with new data 
Send out the benefits realisation piece Including benefits of initiative outcome of all work doneBaseline vs. new performance data 
Conduct a lessons-learned exercise 
Send out the benefits realisation piece Includes benefits of initiative outcome of all work doneBaseline vs. new performance data 

At the end of this stage, the key deliverables will be:

  • A control plan.
  • Lessons learned pack.
  • Benefits realisation piece.

End

If you deliver the plan as detailed above, you will see significant results for your organization. Remember, this approach is tried and tested. It has been deployed in many companies, many industries and to address many challenges. It is not a one size fits all, can be tailored to your individual and business needs and can be amended as you see fit. At this stage in the article, I want to call out a final few points.

Firstly, it is really important you state clearly at the start what it is you are seeking to improve and achieve with the work you are doing. This enables benefits realization at the end of the project to show really clearly what state you have moved from. If you can show how you have achieved the benefits you wanted to through the approach you have taken, you are more likely to increase buy in for future process improvement work.

Secondly, you need to have good data to hand at the start of this work. Again, this data can be used as a baseline to clearly showcase what is happening at the start of the work you are conducting and how these metrics have been impacted by the work done. To get this data, you can either pull on existing data in the business or you can create fresh, new data from customers, colleagues or the systems you use.

Finally, it is really important you follow the plan in full. Even if you amend some of the steps and stages, this framework has been tried and tested in many industries, instances and in many companies. It is one of those frameworks that clearly defines what you need to do, step by step, stage by stage, to ensure you can achieve what you set out to achieve at the start. It will confidently deliver the results you had anticipated and, if done well, in good time.

A good process improvement plan is only half the journey, however. To deliver it successfully, you need strong committed individuals who are excited about the work, have good experience and exposure to the world of process improvement and who have a vested interest in the work being done.

Robert Chapman

Robert Chapman

Director and Author of Leading Business Improvement and passionate about all things Process, Continuous and Business Improvement. Over a decade of experience in delivering projects for my clients in these areas, as well as root cause analysis and the reduction of business costs.

Robert Chapman

Robert Chapman

Director and Author of Leading Business Improvement and passionate about all things Process, Continuous and Business Improvement. Over a decade of experience in delivering projects for my clients in these areas, as well as root cause analysis and the reduction of business costs.

Scroll to Top