Process Improvement and Management: How to Improve Business Processes

Process Improvement and Management: How to Improve Business Processes

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.

4. Document

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


Interior Design Social Diary™: Secrets to Finding a Literary Agent

In her popular advice lecture "Sh-h-h-h- Don't Tell Anyone: Secrets to Finding a Literary Agent", Carole Sargent, Georgetown University's director of scholarly publications, reveals her literary secrets Thursday, June 7 from 11:30 -1:30 p.m. at the American Women Writers National Museum, 1275 K St. NW @ 13th street entrance. 

Sargent's expertise extends well beyond scholarly publications. She has placed authors' work with such mega-famous literary agencies as William Morris Endeavor, Trident Media, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and others.

"I'll disclose what literary agents are looking for in a book proposal or a potential author, and why you should get an agent before you even finish your book," Sargent said. She'll share her time-tested tips for finding and working with agents. A Question time will follow her remarks.

Before coming to Georgetown University publications, Sargent taught eighteenth-century English literature there. She earned a Ph.D. at the Unverisity of Virginia. Practicing what she preaches, Sargent placed two of her own books with top publishing house Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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Never Sell Again: Get Repeat Business and Avoid the Need to Prospect

If you're a design business owner, you know that repeat business is critical to your success. It also makes your life much easier because you can count on ongoing business without having to continuously find new prospective clients and convince them to hire you.

Here are seven ways to keep your clients coming back:

1. Take time to build a relationship.

Learn to "visit" instead of being so professional that you appear rude. Pay attention when you meet with your clients. Learn about them and their lives. Notice what they hang on their walls and place on their desks. And don't just notice, comment on them. For instance, if your prospective client has a huge marlin hanging on his wall, you could say, "I'll bet there's an interesting story that goes with that fish." Your client will be thrilled to tell you about it, and he'll be flattered that you asked. And it would be like ignoring the elephant in the room if you DIDN'T comment on it. Learning about your client will pay off every day of your relationship.

2. Set realistic deadlines and either meet or beat them.

Nothing impresses a client more than when you follow through with what you say you will do. Do it fast. Do your best. And do it right. Clients always want it "yesterday," but if you know it can't be done that quickly, or it won't be done correctly because there's not enough time, then speak up
right at the beginning. It's better to set a realistic deadline and then beat it by a day or two, than accept an unrealistic one and make the client wait.

3. Make it easy to work with you.

Extend your service hours by an hour to cover when your clients want to talk to you. You can impress your clients  by being available during their "off" hours. [Caveat: Don't go overboard. creating structure around your hours of operation lets clients know that you are a professional and operate as one.]

4. Offer credit card payment options to make it easy for your clients (and the government!) to pay you.

Today, businesses need payment options. If you allow them to pay with credit cards, you'll have more clients. And if you're interested in government business, this is an easy way to get in on the action since most government agencies are now using credit cards for purchases valued at less than $2,500.

5. Be flexible--offer to meet for breakfast.

Just like you, your clients are very busy. They have meetings all day and often during lunch, so it's hard to find a time to get together. Offer to meet for breakfast when you and your client are both fresh, or meet after normal work hours to accommodate their schedule.

6. Provide an added-value service at no charge.

Give them something they aren't expecting. If you go the extra mile, your clients will notice. You'll soon be the one they turn to when they need a problem solved. It works when your vendors do it for you, doesn't it? It sure does for me!

7. Refer business to your clients.

If you send business to your clients related to their profession, it shows how much value them. Connect one client with another, if possible. It's the ultimate thank you.

By Lois Carter Fay
Photography by   Raisa Kanareva

Lois Carter Fay, APR, is a 30-year veteran in the P.R. and marketing field. She now produces three marketing ezines, Brainy Tidbits, Brainy Flash, and Success Secrets of Women Entrepreneurs. All are free. She also offers monthly teleseminars on sales, marketing or publicity topics. Lois is the co-author with Jim Wilson of "Sales Success! Strategies for Women," a quick-to-read ebook containing 52 easy-to-implement sales tips. The ezines, ebook and teleseminars are available through her websites. Visit or to learn more sales and marketing ideas and subscribe. Claim your free special report when you subscribe.



Interior Design Social Diary™: Jonathan Adler at The Corcoran

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