Basic Concepts: Process Improvement

Process improvement is one of the fundamental steps in business management 1.01. If you run an operation of any kind – and if you get to thinking, all businesses these days do – you rely highly in these two very important things:

People – your employees, the set of skills and capabilities they come with;

Processes – the way you plan, manage and ultimately do things.

So, keeping the logical way of thinking, the only ways of improving your operation performance are either improving the way your processes perform, the way your people perform or both.

Changing people is not that simple, though it can be done through capacitating and directed coaching, but changing processes (aka the way you do every thing) is something people do everyday.

Process Improvement 101 – Is it that hard?

Process improvement is normally treated with a lot of importance within business management and, therefore, there are a lot of methodologies available out there promising miracles but it’s really a lot simpler than it seems.

To get things going, there are three topics/questions you need to work your process improvement plan around:

1. Purpose – Why does your process exist?

A business process is, in its purest concept, a series of related, structured activities or tasks that, together, achieve a particular end (in this case, produce a product or a service) for a particular group of people (also known as your customers).

The “end” your processes are means to is very important and must be clear and, if your process is to work well, you must also be very clear towards what it is you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. In order to work towards process improvement, the “purpose” of your process must be obvious.

If you’re not even clear of what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it, how can you even begin to think about improving it?

2. Customer – Who are you working for?

The only person who can actually tell you whether you’re meeting your intended purpose or not is the person you’re actually looking to please, aka your customer (that, is the person you are working for).

You only have one customer (or one customer profile, if you decide to get technical about it) – it is the person who is paying you for what you have to offer, literally handing over their cash in exchange for your product/service.

3. Satisfaction – Is your customer happy with the ways things are right now?

If your process is ultimately focused on meeting your customer’s needs and there is absolutely no way you could make it better, then you found the perfect way of doing things and no process improvement in the world could make it better.

Process improvement is nothing more than changing the way you do things in order to meet your customer needs and desires.

Process Improvement 1.02 – If it’s simple, why people make it hard?

The biggest problem companies face with process improvement is that they’re not really focused on what their customer wants (big mistake there), they worry about what the shareholders/owners/managers want (to bring in more money, normally) so they decide to improve and optimize around the wrong person – starting the whole process off on the wrong foot.

By taking the focus back from other people’s interests instead of your customer’s, all process improvement does is refocus the processes back on what’s really important: giving the customer what they pay for.

So, at the end of the day, process improvement isn’t all about using the right set of tools, methodologies or techniques, it’s about looking back into your customer profile and giving them what they want.

The problem resides, however, in convincing the people in higher administrative positions (and often the ones with power to make decisions) that it’s way more important to actually please the people that give you money than to please their bosses, the company’s owners or shareholders and certainly not themselves.

How to start improving your processes today?

Try Pipefy! We help companies keep organised and more productive by running their processes and day-by-day routines on an easy and intuitive tool, making them leave in the past inefficient manual forms, spreadsheets and email threads.

With Pipefy’s Templates, you’ll run your processes way easier and faster, giving you more time to focus on what really matters: your customer.

Written by Isabelle Salemme, Product content manager at Pipefy. She uses her extensive Pipefy knowledge to write informative pieces teaching users to make the best of Pipefy. Besides being responsible for all product-related content, she's an avid reader, a coffee lover and a professional photographer.