When deciding to bring about a change in the existing operational processes of the organization, it is important to understand where the change is needed. Do the employees need training? Or does the company need to invest in a new system?
There could be 3 objectives which are key to process improvement
#1: Fine tuning the everyday business operations: This basically means working on the existing process to make it cheaper, faster, with lesser wastes. Since the performance engine is well known and adapted to, it is easier to predict the process improvement results.
GE sets a good example by making its Six Sigma belts look for areas where costs can be reduced. The major challenge to this approach arises when line managers are willing to find a workaround, rather than improving the process for a long term.
#2: Process Innovation: This is required when the present system proves to be inefficient. Since process innovation means venturing into a new territory, the results can’t always be predicted. This method of process improvement requires dedicated leaders who believe in the need for transformation, and motivate the employees for the same. Innovation is synonymous with pilots, rollouts, and redesign. Although process innovation leads to very strong improvement in the process, but this tactic often meets resistance, who favor the existing system, and are not ready to accept a widespread transformation.
#3: Making the organization ‘anti fragile’: This tactic proves useful when there is a need to make the organization ready for disruptions and threats. One approach is to convert the employees from command followers to problem solvers. Another line of attack is to listen to the customers and invest in change sensing mechanisms.Here again, there could be hindrance in terms of the short term focus on achieving faster results using conventional methods, than developing more efficient resources.
In a nutshell, process improvement has varied approaches and results. Using the right methodology depends on an analysis of the expected result.