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Process management and improvement: Plans and strategies

August 22, 2018

If there is one constant in any business, it's change. Ideally, change for the better: Improvement. Everyone who manages a business wants to improve their organization in some way, and most understand that the process of doing so is often not simple or straightforward. It is fluid and sometimes treacherous.

In an ideal situation, a great new idea would be introduced, the plan would be approved, changes would be enacted, and then, in a few months, there would be a demonstrable improvement. All too often, though, it seems that not everyone follows through with a plan, and after a few weeks, new ideas have fallen by the wayside in favor of the old ways with no real change or improvement as a result.

This is where a process improvement plan can be implemented to make sure that the team sees an idea through to the end and the change sticks. A firm plan can help everyone involved identify what must be done and what the end objectives are while providing context and guidelines that hold all team members more accountable.

What is a process improvement plan?

A process improvement plan is, at its core, a documented collection of steps and decisions made to achieve a task or complete a given workload. Processes can look very different depending on the company or industry in question, but the basic definition of a process improvement plan is quite simple. It is the creation of a strategy that will improve operations. They aren’t crisis reaction plans or courses of action for sudden situations that arise: They are proactive approaches that address weak points in an existing system. A process improvement plan is a strategy meant to answer these questions and examine these areas:

  • How improvements will be deployed
  • How a process can be institutionalized
  • How processes are chosen for improvement
  • How processes are evaluated for improvement
  • How a new process is audited
  • Which team members should work on which areas of process management

Removing roadblocks and weak points will allow you to help your business to:

  • Eliminate ineffective activities
  • Save time on process completion
  • Reduce process friction
  • Meet compliance standards
  • Improve quality and efficiency

What is a process improvement specialist?

Process improvement specialists can also be called data outcomes specialists, quality assurance specialists, or a performance improvement specialist. Regardless of which title is being used within an organization, these professionals often serve as a consultant for businesses, offering their in-depth business process knowledge to empower companies that are vested in lasting changes and business improvement. Their job can also consist of compiling and tracking data, group facilitation, and team-building. Some may have experience in custom applications designed to support better process planning and management.

A process improvement specialist can help advise an organization's efforts and keep operations running smoothly. Being knowledgeable, methodical, and tech savvy, these team members are vital to the successful implementation of effective process management change.

What do you need to be a process improvement specialist?

Usually, only a bachelor’s degree in a related area, such as business administration or maybe even law, is required to be a process improvement specialist, though advanced degrees are usually preferred. Process improvement specialists are skilled at software use, technical writing, and communication. Time spent within management positions within the industry of choice is often very valuable. According to Payscale, the average salary for a process improvement specialist is about $79,550.

Creating a plan: Process improvement steps

Creating a plan for process management and improvement will help ensure that your ideas become a reality within your organization. The following steps break down process improvement into the necessary tasks.

1. Map the process

Before beginning, you will have selected the process for improvement, and now, it’s time to begin brainstorming solutions. The best way to get ideas and have an understanding of your current process is to map it out from start to finish in order to identify the inefficient or problem areas. A custom flowchart or template can definitely make this step more organized. It also helps to clarify goals at this stage.

2. Analyze the process

With the map in place, you can take a closer look at each step and item on that map. Keep an eye out for areas where a lot of money is spent or where delays are happening. The map you made will help you get to the root of a problem and trace it to back to its origins.

A few key data types that may be important to your organization include:

  • Safety incident records
  • Equipment stoppage records
  • Quality inspection reports
  • Corrective action plans
  • Utility consumption data
  • Shipping records
  • Previous project management records
3. Plan improvements and redesign the process

Now that problems have been identified, the process can be redesigned to address the problems. This step is best completed as a team effort so that the team can clearly communicate the specific ways the old process was completed. The team can brainstorm fixes and solutions along with potential risks. This is a great opportunity to use an app that allows all team members to contribute their ideas in real time in an organized, easily managed way.

4. Assign the resources

This is the stage in which you’ll determine what’s needed to make change happen. At this point, you should decide who is responsible for which aspects. Communicating with necessary departments, managers, and team members is essential in this step. This is the final stage before your changes will actually be implemented.

5. The implementation plan

Now that you are aware of goals, changes that will be made, and the responsibilities of all involved, you can create a plan for implementation. The plan will generally look like a timeline that shows each task that must be completed from start to finish along with who will be responsible for which tasks and any resources needed. The more detailed a plan is, the more likely it is that the plan will be successfully enacted. This is another area in which a customized app can be a huge help, as it keeps everything clear and organized.

6. The plan

This is the stage where the plan is translated into action. Make sure that consistent communication is maintained during this time. Stick to the plan designed in the previous step and you’ll see the improvements to your process take shape.

7. Monitor and optimize the process

You should frequently analyze your process for success and efficiency. The data collected in this stage will help you determine how successful your planned improvements were and help you find the areas that are in need of further optimization. This step should be repeated throughout the lifespan of the process.

Business process improvement examples

The benefits of a process improvement plan can be numerous. For instance, one company might be focused on cutting production costs and reducing waste, while another might implement a new app to streamline internal communications. No matter which types of improvements your company’s processes might need, developing a process improvement plan can help. Your plan can look like a flowchart or a timeline or a graph; it’s a good idea to customize your template with the details that make the most sense for your project. Some websites will even supply free templates for use. You can use these or draw from their ideas when designing a customized app to manage your process management plan.

Get it done faster with customized apps built using Quickbase

Understanding and following process management guidelines and best practices will help you achieve successful and lasting improvement. A custom low-code process management application can make the tasks involved much easier and more efficient.

Our low-code platform for customized business application creation requires no coding knowledge. Make use of our point-and-click development software to design apps and create reports tailor-made to best fit the needs of your organization. When clear data and strong communication are vital, a custom application can make a world of difference, providing accountability, efficiency, and visibility.

Start a free trial with Quickbase today and discover the benefits of low-code app customization for yourself. Our user-friendly cloud-based development platform is very accessible and will empower you to collaborate with team members of all skill levels, making improvements that are informed by those affected most by the processes themselves.