A Business Process Improvement Model

in Business Management
Business Process Improvement

Some argue that business process improvement is necessary in a successful management. A model for business process improvement is introduced here.

It can be argued that business process improvement is a necessary component in a successful management. Andersen (see References) suggests a model for business process improvement, which will be introduced in this article.

Six steps for Successful Business Improvement

All the six steps have their own tools to complete the different tasks in the different categories in this model. The four first steps will be presented in the following.

The six steps are:

  1. Prioritize the improvement effort
  2. Understand the process and the problem
  3. Analyze the problem
  4. Brainstorm ideas
  5. Generate improvement tasks
  6. Implement

Prioritize the Improvement Effort

Before commencing an improvement process, it is important to know where the need for improvement is highest. A tool for prioritizing the effort is self assessment, which combines process documentation with performance measurement.

While measuring continuously in a measurement system, self assessment is done only a few times in a certain period.

The purpose of self assessment is to give an overall picture of the organizations performance to support strategic decisions and for defining long-term focus areas, not detailed information of single processes.

Interpretation of the data obtained from a self assessment measurement can be done, among others, by:

Trend Analysis

An analysis of the development of the performance level by comparing the present measurements with previous measurements.

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Spider Chart

A tool for comparing your own performance level to that of other organization’s performance.

Performance Matrix

Used to analyze both how well the organization’s business processes are performed and also how important they are perceived to be.

Understand the Process and Problem

A general rule if one wants to improve something is that it is necessary to know how the current state of things is. This is also highly valid if one wants to improve a business process.

Some common used techniques to map a business processes are:

Different Kind of Flowcharts

A graphic description of the flow activities in a process.

Critical Incident

Is a technique where employees are to answer questions like:

  • Which incident last week was most difficult to handle?
  • Which episode caused the biggest problems?
  • And which incident cost the most?

The answers will be collected and analyzed based on the number of times the different incidents have been mentioned.

Check Sheet

Table or form used for registering data as they are collected. The main application is to register how often different problems or incidents (performance indicators) occur, thus providing a foundation for deciding where to concentrate during improvement.

Pareto Chart

Builds on the Pareto principle; that most of the problems (for example 80 %) are caused by a small part of all the possible causes (for example 20 %). The so-called vital few are to be addressed first before facing the important many.

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Analyze the Problem

After having been through the problem understanding process; having defined the problems and limited the focus of the improvement effort, the next step is to identify the causes for the problems and solutions to these. Also for this purpose it has been developed several tools:

Fishbone Chart

A problem is written on the right hand side of a big arrow. Main groups of possible causes are drawn as branches to the arrow. For each branch all possible causes are then identified and listed.

Scatter Chart

Used to show the relationship between two variables.

Relations Diagram

A tool to identify logic cause-and-effect relationships in a complex and confusing problem or situation. To obtain this diagram; isolate all factors believed to be related to one problem, write them down and subsequently draw arrows to identify relationships between the factors.

Brainstorm Ideas

When knowledge about the problems and their causes is obtained, time is come to generate ideas of how to solve the problems. Brainstorming and brainwriting are two common techniques used for this purpose.

It is shown that exposure to a high number of ideas enhances the generation of additional ideas. Group brainstorming is, thus, a popular method for generating creative ideas in organizations.

References:

Andersen, B. and Fagerhaug, T.; Performance Mesaurement Explained – Designing and Implementing Your State-of-the-Art System

Harrington, H.J.  Business Process Improvement – The Breakthrough Strategy for Total Quality, Productivity, and Competitiveness.

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Andersen, B.; Business Process Improvement Toolbox.

Kumar, S. and Strehlow, R.; Business process redesign as a tool for organizational development, Technovation,

Bailey, D.E.; Manufacturing Improvement Team Programs in the Semiconductor Industry,

IEEE Transactions on Semiconductor Manufacturing

Cirulli, P.J. and Kovalchuk, A.F. : A successful strategy for implementing statistical process controls


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