Good Process Improvement Practices

Posted on November 8, 2010  Comments (6)

Good process improvement practices include:

  • standardized improvement process (pdsa, or whatever)
  • Going to the gemba – improvement is done where the work is done. You must go to the where the action is. Sitting in meeting rooms, or offices, reading reports and making decisions is not the way to improve effectively.
  • evidence based decision making, data guides decision making rather than HiPPO
  • broad participation (those working on the process should be the ones working on improving it and everyone in the organization should be improving their processes)
  • measurable results that are used to measure effectiveness
  • pilot improvement on a small scale, after results are shown to be improvements deploy standardized solutions more broadly
  • visual management
  • Standardized work instructions are used for processes
  • one of the aims of the improvement process should be improving peoples ability to improve over the long term (one outcome of the process should be a better process another should be that people learned and can apply what they learned in future improvements)
  • quality tools should be used, people should be trained on such tools. The tools are essentially standardized methods that have been shown to be effective. And most organization just ignore them and struggle to reinvent methods to achieve results instead of just applying methods already shown to be very effective.
  • the improvements are sustained. Changes are made to the system and they are adopted: this seems obvious but far too often process improvements are really just band-aids that fall off a few weeks later and nothing is done to sustain it.
  • goals, bonuses and extrinsic motivation are not part of the process
  • The improvement process itself should be continually improved


Various tools, practices and strategies share these characteristics. I happen to like the PDSA cycle (associated with Deming). The A3 process (associated with lean) is also excellent. DMAIC associated with six sigma is also good but is more often done in ways that fail to cover all the points above in my experience.

The Improvement Guide is an exceptional book on this topic. I highly recommend it: other management books I highly recommend.

Related: Change is not ImprovementHow to ImproveWhere to Start ImprovementOperational ExcellenceHow to Manage What You Can’t MeasureMaking Better DecisionsFind the Root Cause Instead of the Person to Blame

6 Responses to “Good Process Improvement Practices”

  1. Visual Management with Brown M&Ms » Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog
    August 15th, 2011 @ 9:15 am

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    October 4th, 2011 @ 6:04 am

    […] We were able to success not because of 3 specific actions I took during the project but because of the system I put in place and cultivated for years that allowed the team to succeed. But some people have trouble connecting long term system improvements to current project […]

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    September 21st, 2012 @ 1:09 am

    Favor efforts that will help you build organizational capability to do more of what you want going forward…

  4. Improving Processes Helps Innovation Efforts « The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog
    February 14th, 2013 @ 6:22 am

    […] on a small scale to validate the improvement prior to wide scale adoption of the new method). But process improvement in the Deming context […]

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    October 28th, 2013 @ 9:22 am

    The authors and consultants with Associates for Process Improvement have the greatest collection of useful writing on the topic…

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    April 19th, 2014 @ 7:36 pm

    […] far as Curious Cat Management Improvement Carnival category is concerned.So we take a brief stay at Good Process Improvement Practices and related articles – Change is not Improvement – How to Improve – Where to Start […]

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