Process Improvment

Quality is a never ending quest and Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) is a never ending effort to discover and eliminate the main causes of problems. It accomplishes this by using small-steps improvements, rather than implementing one huge improvement. The Japanese have a term for this called "kaizen" which involves everyone, from the hourly workers to top-management. CPI means making things better. It is NOT fighting fires, but working on a process to improve flow. Its goal is NOT to blame people for problems or is simply a way of looking at how we can do our work better. When we take a problem solving approach, we often never get to the root causes because our main goal is to put out the fire. But when we engage in process improvement, we seek to learn what causes things to happen and then use this knowledge to:
  • Reduce variation.
  • Remove activities that have no value to the organization.
  • Improve customer satisfaction.

Process improvement is important as Rummler & Brache's research (1995) showed that process account for about 80% of all problems while people account for the remaining 20%.

One way to get CPI started is to set up a Steering Committee (SC). Although everyone in the organization is responsible for CPI, the SC follows all ideas from conception to completion. Some organizations might have several SCs working on different processes, departments, or systems; while smaller organizations might set up one SC to oversee all CPI projects. Normally, there is one SC that oversees all CPI projects within a physical area. It in turn, passes each CPI suggestion on to a CPI team that carries that project out to completion. At the very least, the SC must contain members who can approve a project (spending authority).