Business Process Improvement is a method for evaluating the current state of the business as a baseline to create a streamlined future state. This is done for very large and comprehensive business processes, such as order-to-delivery or a supply chain, or more focused processes such as hiring and onboarding. The methodology for Business Process Improvement has built up over decades starting with the quality revolution that began after WW2 and including:

  • Quality revolution in Japan driven by Dr. Juran and Dr. Deming, circa 1950
  • Toyota develops Toyota Production System (TPS), 1950’s to 1970’s
  • Six Sigma approach developed at Motorola, 1980’s
  • Re-Engineering the Corporation by Hammer and Champy, 1990’s
  • Jack Welch of GE adopts Six Sigma, late 1990’s
  • Rapid growth of Lean & Six Sigma in manufacturing, 1990’s through 2000’s
  • Growth of Lean & Six Sigma in service, 2000 – today

If you are not sure that BPI is something you need to implement, you can evaluate your business based on these common examples or symptoms of struggling business processes:

  • Long order lead times and poor on time delivery
  • Complex processes with many steps and hand offs, non-value added steps, waiting, duplication and rework
  • Highly reactive organizational culture
  • Complex and or misaligned organizational structure with confusing roles and responsibilities
  • Lack of standardization
  • Poor and inconsistent product or service quality
  • Difficult to do business with
  • Poor customer service
  • Poor internal and external communications

The first step of BPI is Business Process Modeling. A cross-functional team of subject matter experts is formed to work on streamlining the business process. This can take from a few weeks to a few months. The specific steps of Business Process Modeling include:

  1. Map the current state
    1. Once complete, the team can clearly agree on the process’ current state and many of the issues plaguing the process
  2. Sort the map
    1. The map is marked to identify and highlight non-value-added steps within the process
  3. Brainstorm ideas to eliminate non-value-added steps
  4. Prioritize ideas
    1. Benefit versus Difficulty-to-Implement
  5. Design the future state map
  6. Create an implementation and roll-out plan