Improvement is always on the minds of business owners and management teams. According to a case study written by Gary A. Rummler, founder of Rummler-Brache Group, to make a significant difference in an organization's results, the current processes must be identified and weaknesses addressed. Rummler paired up with Allan P. Brache in 1991 and developed a model that defined the steps needed for running a process improvement and management project. Follow these steps to address your critical business issues:
1. Identify the Needed Improvements
Identifying the key processes that need improvement is the initial stage. This can be a formal or informal approach. The importance is in selecting the processes that have the greatest impact on a competitive advantage or customer requirement.
2. Develop Objectives
Develop the objectives for the project based on the requirements of the process. The goal of your objectives should be establishing control over the process.
3. Define the Project Team
When you are selecting members for your project team, select those who are cross-trained. Using cross-trained members ensures the quality of the analysis and commitment to change.
It is important to have a detailed document of the levels in your organization, process level, and the team member or performer level. This "organization map" can then be developed into a cross-functional process map for the process which you are trying to improve.
5. Identify the Problem
Rummler defines problems in a process as "disconnections". "Disconnections" are anything and everything that keeps your process from being efficient and effective. When identifying where these weaknesses are categorize it into three levels: organizational, process, and employee or performer.
6. Develop the Answers
Develop change concepts for all three levels where disconnections were identified. Prioritize and categorize the main problems, then evaluate the solutions you developed. It is important to also develop a cross-functional process for the changes that you recommend.
7. Establish the Process
Begin your process and your sub-process measures. Make sure that your process measures reflect the objectives that you set for the project.
8. Execute the Plan
Apply your improvements and execute effectively. The use of this model is just as useful for smaller processes as it is for more complex processes. The average time it takes to successfully complete steps 4-7 is determined to be anywhere from three days to three months. These time frames are primarily based on the complexity of the process you are trying to implement. In addition to the complexity, the extent required for removing the disconnections to make necessary changes must also be taken into consideration. The benefits of the cross-functional team that you developed are that the team learns a considerable amount about the overall business and their roles within it. This training will help each team member better understand what is required of them. The increase in understanding will reduce the amount of training needed. When an organization fully understands what their key processes are, you will see a boost in commitment to the implementation of improvements. Some elements of a successful implementation are:
• Executive leadership and management commitment to execution of processes.
• A clear statement of why the change is needed.
• A clear scope of how the organization will be effected after the changes.
• Comprehensive recommendations.
• A firm implementation of the plan and strategy.
• Sufficient resources and time.
• Communication of plans, responsibilities, benefits, progress, and resolutions.
• Cooperation of all individuals to support the proposed changes.
• Effective management and execution.
The framework of the Process Improvement and Management model can improve the flow of any process as well as examine any general management issue. Introducing this model as a standard for continuous improvement will provide you and your employees with a clear guide to more efficient processes. If you want to successfully apply these processes, you'd better get out there and find the rest.
By Frank Payne
Photography by Vojtech Vlk