Business process improvement

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Business process Improvement (BPI) is a systematic approach to help an organization optimize its underlying processes to achieve more efficient results. The methodology was first documented in H. James Harrington’s 1991 book Business Process Improvement.[1] It is the methodology that both Process Redesign and Business Process Reengineering are based upon. BPI has allegedly been responsible for reducing cost and cycle time by as much as 90% while improving quality by over 60%.[citation needed]

Process improvement is an aspect of organizational development (OD) in which a series of actions are taken by a process owner to identify, analyze and improve existing business processes within an organization to meet new goals and objectives,[2] such as increasing profits and performance,[2] reducing costs[2] and accelerating schedules.[citation needed] These actions often follow a specific methodology or strategy to increase the likelihood of successful results.[2] Process improvement may include the restructuring of company training programs to increase their effectiveness.[2]

Process improvement is also a method to introduce process changes to improve the quality of a product or service, to better match customer and consumer needs.[2]


The organization may be a for-profit business, a non-profit organization, a government agency, or any other ongoing concern. This was the first methodology developed that focused away from the production processes to address the service and support process. It was developed within IBM as a result of the IBM president John F. Akers putting out a Corporate Instruction in the early 1980s requiring the rest of IBM operations to upgrade their processes so that they were at least as good as the production processes. At that time the production processes were required to be at a Cpk of 1.4. To measure and meet these performance goals required major improvements in IBM’s business processes. To accomplish this, IBM’s Business Process Improvement methodology was developed. On March 13, 1984 after the Business Process Improvement was under way at IBM, John Akers stated at the American Electronics Association seminar on Quality in Boston, Our studies show that more than 50 percent of the total cost of billing relates to preventing, catching, or fixing errors. This approach was first documented outside of IBM by H. James Harrington while at Ernst & Young[3] and then in Harrington’s 1991 book entitled Business Process Improvement – the Breakthrough Strategy for Total Quality, Productivity, and Competitiveness[1] published by McGraw-Hill. More detailed information about the methodology was documented in Harrington’s 1997 book Business Process Improvement Workbook-Documentation, Analysis, Design, and Management of Business Process Improvement [4] also published by McGraw-Hill.

It should be noted that BPI focuses on "doing things right" more than it does on "doing the right thing". In essence, BPI attempts to reduce variation and/or waste in processes, so that the desired outcome can be achieved with better utilisation of resources.

BPI works by:

  • Defining the organization's strategic goals and purposes (Who are we, what do we do, and why do we do it?)
  • Determining the organization's customers (or stakeholders) (Who do we serve?)
  • Aligning the business processes to realize the organization's goals (How do we do it better?)

The goal of BPI is a radical change in the performance of an organization, rather than a series of incremental changes (compare TQM). Michael Hammer and James Champy popularized this radical model in their book ‘’Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution’’ (1993). Hammer and Champy stated that the process was not meant to impose trivial changes, such as 10 percent improvements or 20 percent cost reductions, but was meant to be revolutionary (see breakthrough solution).

Many businesses in the 1990s used the phrase "reengineering" as a euphemism for layoffs. Other organizations did not make radical changes in their business processes and did not make significant gains, and, therefore, wrote the process off as a failure. Yet, others have found that BPI is a valuable tool in a process of gradual change to a business.

BPI typically involves six steps:

Selection of process teams and leader[edit]

Process teams, comprising 2-4 employees from various departments that are involved in the particular process, are set up. Each team selects a process team leader, typically the person who is responsible for running the respective process.

Process analysis training[edit]

The selected process team members are trained in process analysis and documentation techniques.

Process analysis interview[edit]

The members of the process teams conduct several interviews with people working along the processes. During the interview, they gather information about process structure, as well as process performance data.

Process documentation[edit]

The interview results are used to draw a first process map. Previously existing process descriptions are reviewed and integrated, wherever possible. Possible process improvements, discussed during the interview, are integrated into the process maps.

Review cycle[edit]

The draft documentation is then reviewed by employees working in the process. Additional review cycles may be necessary in order to achieve a common view (mental image) of the process with all concerned employees. This stage is an iterative process.

Problem analysis[edit]

A thorough analysis of process problems can then be conducted, based on the process map, and information gathered about the process. At this time of the project, process goal information from the strategy audit is available as well, and is used to derive measures for process improvement.

Employee roles[edit]

There are four roles within a business Management system: Business Leader, Process Owner, Operational Manager, and Process Operator. The responsibilities of each of these roles are unique, but work together as a system. Some employees in an organization may perform as many as all four of these roles over the course of a day, week, month, or year.

The responsibilities of the roles all follow the PDCA (plan, do, check, and act) cycle.[citation needed][5]

Business leaders[edit]

Business leaders are responsible for creating the business plans[citation needed] (including strategic plans created during the strategic planning process) and associated resourcing plans necessary to cause the organization to be successful.

Senior leaders (corporate) are responsible for defining the customer and business objectives which an organization needs[citation needed] to achieve to be successful. This process includes overseeing the development of the organization's mission, vision (goal), and values.[citation needed] These persons are accountable for meeting customer and business objectives.

Lower leader-levels (business unit and functional) are responsible for translating senior leaders' business objectives into business objectives that make sense for their level and that support the accomplishment of the senior leaders' business objectives.[citation needed] These persons are accountable for meeting business unit and functional objectives.

Plan: The business leaders create and own the business performance objectives of the organization. Senior leaders need to first understand the requirements of their customers, stockholders, workforce, suppliers, and communities. They need to understand their competition. They need to understand the environmental, economic, technological, social, legal, and political environments that they do business within. Senior leaders need to consider all of these elements as they design a Business model and business Strategy map that will meet the customer and business requirements. Business Leaders then translate these requirements and business environment issues into business performance objectives. Business Leaders then create business plans and associated resourcing plans that will cause the organization to achieve these business objectives. The Business Leaders establish business performance metrics to measure the business’s capability to meet these business objectives. Many organizations create a Balanced scorecard to organize and communicate business performance metrics.

Do: The business leaders are responsible for communicating to the organization their business plans. As the organization conducts business, the Business Leaders are responsible to build bridges and remove barriers that will allow the business performance objectives to be met. The business performance metric data is produced and collected as business is performed by the organization.

Check: The business leaders periodically analyze the business performance data and use it to visualize the business’s capability to meet business objectives over time (performance trends), compare actual performance against performance targets, and identify performance issues.

Act: The business leaders are responsible to create improvement actions to address the performance issues that are identified during their analysis of the business performance data. These improvement actions are created to ensure the organization is able to achieve their business plans.

Process owner[edit]

The process owner is responsible for designing the processes necessary to achieve the objectives of the business plans that are created by the Business Leaders. The process owner is responsible for the creation, update and approval of documents (procedures, work instructions/protocols) to support the process. Many process owners are supported by a process improvement team. The process owner uses this team as a mechanism to help create a high performance process. The process owner is the only person who has authority to make changes in the process and manages the entire process improvement cycle to ensure performance effectiveness. This person is the contact person for all information related to the process. This person is accountable for the effectiveness of the process.

Plan: The process owners create and own the process performance objectives of the organization. The process owner first needs to understand the external and internal customer requirements for the process. This person uses the business plans as a source to help understand the long term and short term customer and business requirements. This person then translates these requirements into process performance objectives and establishes product (includes service) specifications. This person establishes process performance metrics to measure the process’s capability to meet the product specifications and overall process objectives. The set of metrics that are to be reviewed by operational managers and process operators are called key performance indicators (KPIs). The process owner then designs process steps to describe work that when performed will have the capability to produce products that meets the customer and business requirements.

Do: The process owner is responsible to communicate to the operational managers the details of the processes that the operational managers are responsible to execute. As the operational managers and process operators perform the processes, the process owner is responsible to build bridges and remove barriers that will allow the process performance objectives to be met. The process performance metric data is produced and collected as the process is performed by process operators. The process owner is continually involved with the operational managers and process operators as they use kaizen to continually improve the process as they are performing the work.

Check: The Process Owner periodically analyzes the process performance data and use it to visualize the process’s capability to operate within control limits over time (performance trends), compare actual performance against performance targets, and identify performance issues.

Act: The Process Owner is responsible for creating improvement actions that address performance issues that are identified during their analysis of the process performance data. Improvement actions may include the initiation of Lean projects to reduce waste from the process or include the initiation of Six Sigma projects to reduce variation in the process. Improvement actions may include the use of problem solving tools that would include risk assessment and root cause analysis. Risk assessment is used to identify and reduce, eliminate, or mitigate risk within the process. This is the proactive approach to avoid problems being created from the process. Root-cause analysis is the reactive way to respond to problems that occur from the process. Root-cause analysis is used to identify the causes of problems within the process and identify and implement improvement actions that will ensure these problems do not occur again.

Operational manager[edit]

The Operational Manager is responsible for bringing the resources and processes together to achieve the objectives of the business plans that are created by the business leaders. This person is accountable for how well the process is performed.

Plan: The Operational Manager - in collaboration with each Process Operator, creates Process Operator performance objectives for the employees they supervise. The Operational Manager needs to understand the performance requirements of the process. They match employees (Process Operators) with the competency and skill requirements of the process to be performed. They ensure that the Process Operators have the budget, facilities, and technology available to them that is necessary to achieve the performance objectives of the processes.

Do: The Operational Manager is responsible for teaching process operators how to perform the processes (work). Process Operator instruction usually consists of classroom and on-the-job training. The Operational Manager oversees the work and ensures Process Operators receive ongoing informal feedback as to their performance. As the Process Operators perform the processes, the Operational Managers are responsible to build bridges and remove barriers that will allow the process and Process Operator performance objectives to be met. Process and Process Operator performance metric data is produced and collected as the process is performed. The Operational Manager ensures that Process Operators are using Kaizen to continually improve the process as they are performing the work.

Check: The Operational Manager periodically analyzes the key performance indicators (KPIs) during the production cycle to evaluate the work group’s ability to achieve the process and process operator performance objectives. This data is used to visualize the process and process operator capability to meet business plan objectives over time (performance trends), compare actual performance against performance targets, and identify performance issues. They review this performance data and sort out process operator performance issues from process performance issues. Many organizations use a war room concept to post performance data. Within the war room, the operational manager conducts periodic review and analysis of this performance data.

Act: The Operational Manager is responsible for creating improvement actions to address the performance issues that are identified during their analysis of the process and Process Operator performance data. They address Process Operator performance with ongoing feedback to the Process Operator and/or by using an employee performance management review process. They communicate process performance issues to the Process Operator(s) and the Process Owner.

Process operator[edit]

The process operator is responsible for learning and perform the processes (work) necessary to achieve the objectives of the business plans that are created by Business Leaders. This person is accountable for performing the requirements of the process.

Plan: The process operators - in collaboration with their Operational Manager, create and own their performance objectives. Process Operators are responsible to understand the performance objectives of the process they are to perform and the specifications of the product they are to produce.

Do: Process operators are responsible for learning the processes (work) that they are to perform. They ensure the processes are performed to meet the process performance objectives and produce product that meets specification. As the Process Operators perform the processes, they are responsible to communicate to their Operational Manager (supervisor) the bridges that need to be built and the barriers that need to be removed to allow the process and Process Operator performance objectives to be met. Process and Process Operator performance metric data is produced and collected as the process is performed.

Check: The process operator periodically reviews the Key performance indicators (KPI’s). The Process Operator makes adjustments to their work based on their actual performance compared to KPI targets. The Process Operator is responsible for identifying and reporting any performance issues and stopping production if necessary.

Act: Process operators practice kaizen to continually challenge the process and communicate improvement suggestions to their operational manager (supervisor).

Key considerations[edit]

Processes need to align to business goals An organization's strategic goals should provide the key direction for any Business Process Improvement exercise. This alignment can be brought about by integrating programs like Balanced Scorecard to the BPI initiative. e.g. When deploying Six Sigma, identification of projects can be done on the basis of how they fit into the Balanced Scorecard agenda of the organization.

Customer focus Fast-changing customer needs underscore the importance of aligning business processes to achieve higher customer satisfication. It is imperative in any BPI exercise that the "Voice of Customer" be known, and factored in, when reviewing or redesigning any process.

Importance of benchmarks BPI tools place a lot of emphasis on "measurable results". Accordingly, benchmarks assume an important role in any BPI initiative. Depending on the lifecycle of the process in question, benchmarks may be internal (within the organization), external (from other competing / noncompeting organizations) or dictated by the senior management of the organization as an aspirational target.

Establish process owners For any process to be controllable, it is essential that there be clarity on who are the process owners, and what constitutes success/failure of the process. These success/failure levels also help establish "control limits" for the process, and provide a healthy check on whether or not a process is meeting the desired customer objectives.


  • Carrying out BPI is a project, so all principles of project management apply; but there are additional tools and discipline needed to be effective in mastering BPI work. This ensures, for example, that improvement processes do not conflict with each other (such issues would be addressed as part of risk planning).[6] BPI is truly a process in and of itself; part of the ultimate goal is to build in continuous improvement.
  • The first step in BPI is to define the existing structure and process at play (AS-IS), and identify key process areas that need renovation.
  • Then, the BPI process owners should determine what outcomes would add value to the organization's objectives and how best to align its processes to achieve those outcomes (TO-BE).
  • Once the outcomes are determined, the organization's work force may need to be re-organized to meet the new objectives, using the variety of tools available within the BPI methodology. The critical success factor in any BPI effort is change management with people.

Process-Oriented Architecture[edit]

Tristan Boutros and Tim Purdie defined a fresh approach in the industry when they created their 2013 book [7] The Process-Oriented Architecture (POA) defined within was developed beginning in 2005 and forms the base level taxonomy for their systematic and best in class method for driving effective business outcomes while driving high levels of employee engagement and satisfaction. The POA was originally developed to illustrate the interdependence of process design and successful business outcomes to aid the workers faced with necessary change a simple to understand map to drive them safely through the improvement lifecycle. Throughout the following years the POA became a platform for significant employee performance boost, and effective business processes that market-ably turned out high yield financial results.

Rummler-Brache methodology[edit]

Rummler and Brache defined a comprehensive approach to organizing companies around processes, managing and measuring processes and redefining processes in their 1990 book.[8] This is a systematic approach to business process change and ideas first introduced in this book have been influential on other, less comprehensive approaches. This book draws heavily from the basic approach laid out in Improving Processes.

The Helix Methodology[edit]

The Helix Methodology (Helix) was developed by Michael R. Wood beginning in 1979. Helix was originally developed to help small to medium businesses to replace manual and outdated business practices and processes with automated solutions. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Helix was expanded to become a complete Enterprise (Value Delivery) Improvement and Business Process Analysis (HEI/BPA) methodology. The Business Process Improvement component of Helix has been published in a series of two books.[9][10] HEI/BPA provides a method for aligning business processes and IT systems with organization strategies, goals and objectives. In addition, HEI/BPA provides the metrics and performance measures needed to support MBO and performance score card programs.[11]

The Helix Method is the premier methodology for aligning value from strategy through operations. The latest edition of the work was published in June 2016 and is available on request in PDF form. Send requests to The book is over 500 pages in length and provides the only true HOW-TO case study within the BPI / Total Value Management space. Below is the table of contents.



The Principle upon which Helix is based are as follows:

The Principle Factors There are 8 factors that form the philosophical foundation of HELIX. HELIX is as much a philosophy as it is a set of pragmatic tools and techniques for helping organizations discover ways to improve processes and achieve alignment. Through the #1 Principle of Making a Difference, an organization can instill a positive attitude for moving forward.

  1. 2 The Principle of Value-added Delivery Systems helps the organization move away from viewing itself as a hierarchy to viewing itself as a series of cross-functional activities that add value to its stakeholders.
  2. 3 The Principle of Discovery liberates the organization to explore and to tap into its human resources for ways to improve how it adds value to stakeholders.
  3. 4 The Principle of Collaboration provides the understanding that breakthrough learning and growth comes through dialogue and collaboration during periods of discovery.
  4. 5 The Principle of Context presents how to energize collaborative work efforts by creating meaningful objectives that are actionable at all levels of the organization.
  5. 6 The Principle of Conditioning for Change provides insights into how people and organizations react to change. The process of conditioning people and organizations for successful change is introduced.
  6. 7 The Principle of Catharsis and Revelation explores the human need to vent before they can let go and move forward and unleash their creativity. It provides a stable and non-confrontational method of allowing people to experience this process.
  7. 8 The Principle of Focused Urgency and Momentum presents how an organization can achieve its objectives without becoming reactive.

Factor #1 - The Principle of Making a Difference - We all make a difference - The kind of difference we make is up to us We All Make a Difference. The only question is, What kind of difference will we make? Will we make a positive or negative difference in the lives of people and organizations with whom we work? Our presence or absence in a situation may alter the outcome of that situation. Even if we are oblivious to our impact, the impact is still there. However, making consistently positive differences is a matter of persistent and conscious intent; we enter situations with the awareness and desire to add value to the outcome. With this mindset, the chances of success are increased tenfold.

Factor #2 - The Principle of Value-added Delivery Systems - Organizations are Value-added Delivery Systems HELIX views organizations as Value-added Delivery Systems (VADS). VADS are the processes that provide specific outcomes each time they are executed. By definition, these outcomes add value to an organization’s stakeholders (Owners, Employees, Customers, Suppliers, Community, etc.) VADS are “end-to-end” processes where people share information and take action that result in the achievement of a specific outcome.

Factor #3 - The Principle of Discovery - Discovery is Critical to Learning and Improvement One of the key concepts promoted by HELIX is the principle of discovery. Discovery provides the framework for exploring the implications of change in a nonthreatening way. It allows teams to be creative about solutions and enables them to develop models for improving processes that can be implemented in a practical and cost-effective manner. Discovery is where HELIX begins. During the Discovery phase, the needs of the business are explored. A contrast between where the organization sees itself today and how it would like to see itself in the future is developed. This future state is articulated by management through concrete, action-focused goals. When John F. Kennedy declared that we would land a man on the moon by the end of the decade in the early 1960s, he created a compelling vision for the future that was concrete and extremely focused.

Factor #4 - The Principle of Collaboration - Breaking down barriers requires collaboration In virtually every organization there exists political and communication barriers that make positive change difficult, if not impossible. In order for VADS to be improved, these barriers must be neutralized (or at least set aside). Fortunately, HELIX incorporates techniques that encourage collaboration. In a structured, collaborative process, barriers are slowly dissolved. People begin to focus on process, not each other. They become open to explore possibilities. Telling people they must cooperate, collaborate and get along with each other rarely works. More often than not, people need to feel free to choose to share and collaborate. When this happens naturally, true buy-in occurs, not just compliance to the process.

Factor #5 - The Principle of Context - Building a context for dialogue and understanding is essential To understand the meaning of words and events, each must be viewed in their situational context. Listening to others or viewing an exchange or set of actions without regard to their context, diminishes and hinders the ability to interpret meaning and intent is lost. Words said in jest (a humorous context) are interpreted differently than those words said in anger. With political correctness the rage du jour, people are being conditioned to take words and actions both critically and literally without regard to their context, resulting in more confrontations, hidden agendas and misaligned expectations. The workflows that make up the VADS in an organization define the context in which people communicate and share information.

Factor #6 - The Principle of Conditioning for Change - Unconditioned change creates resistance and chaos. Change is inevitable. People grow older and, in the process, change. Mountains change shape and rivers change direction over millions of years. These types of changes are slow and easy to adjust to. Too much change, done too quickly, creates upheaval. There can be radical reactions. Mountains can soar or crumble. Rivers can overflow or dry up. Abrupt or rapid change can throw people, organizations and systems out of control and into chaos. The natural response to change is resistance. Resistance to change is not good or bad; resistance to change is natural. As one might imagine, people and organizations prefer to stay in a predictable and stable state. When change occurs to any organism, that organism will make internal adjustments to keep change to a minimum. It will try to keep a sense of balance and reject forces that cause stress. Science calls this state homeostasis, the self-regulating of life processes.

actor #7 - The Principle of Catharsis and Revelation - Catharsis and Revelation are keys to creative solutions. Part of the leverage-building process for change requires that people be allowed to vent their frustrations in a nonthreatening, constructive environment. Allowed to air their frustrations, people are more able to openly, creatively, and interactively explore alternatives. HELIX’s facilitation process provides the safe haven needed for process groups to collectively release their frustrations and experience the revelations that come from creative solution development. At the beginning of each HELIX work session, participants (knowledge workers) are facilitated to develop or update a model that lists existing situations that could be improved and what that improved situation (preliminary goal) would look like. This model is called a change analysis. The model is a simple, two-column format that is easy to understand. The beauty of the model is that it allows each participant to get burning issues off their chest (emotional and functional) while focusing them to project a more desirable future state. The point to remember is that the first steps toward getting leverage on change are to release frustration, build perspective and focus on the future, not the past. With leverage comes the creative tension (a force that pulls us forward) needed to move forward and achieve desired outcomes.

Factor #8 - The Principle of Focused Urgency and Momentum - Focused Urgency is key to maintaining momentum Urgency is often associated with reacting to what appears to be the most pressing issue at the time. This is often referred to as the “Tyranny of the Urgent”. In this context, urgency is not considered a good thing. However, there is another form of urgency that helps people and organizations achieve results: Focused Urgency. Focused Urgency is the process of acting on important goals with deliberate dispatch. Focused Urgency rivets attention on to what is important while screening out interference and distraction. Through Focused Urgency, an organization or person accelerates the pace of their actions until the desired result is achieved. When an organization sets out to achieve objectives, it is critical that they do so with Focused Urgency. In doing so, energy and momentum are maintained. People see the objective as a serious and passionate pursuit of the organization. Focused Urgency builds shared vision and direction. Virtually every high achiever instinctively understands the importance of Focused Urgency. Each knows how to become single minded in their actions. Without Focused Urgency, it is doubtful that any form of a major initiative will succeed. Organizations that harness the power of Focused Urgency set the pace for others to follow. Each action builds on the last. Objectives become rallying points. There is no confusion or doubt as to the path the group is taking or what will be accomplished.

The Alignment Factors

Factor #9 - Alignment of Stakeholder Needs to Strategic Direction Aligning stakeholder needs to strategic direction requires that: 1) the organization knows who its stakeholders are and what they want; 2) the organization has a consciously developed strategic direction. All organizations have stakeholders and a direction it pursues. The distinction is whether or not the organization is consciously aware of either.

Organizations exist to satisfy stakeholder needs for value. Typically, these stakeholders are: • Owners • Customers • Employees • Community • Strategic Alliances and Providers Adding value to a stakeholder implies an understanding of that stakeholder’s expectations. If an organization does not understand its stakeholder’s needs, then it is unlikely that it will align those needs with its strategic direction. Deploying HELIX at any level increases the chance that people will begin to think more strategically.

Factor #10 - Alignment of Strategic Direction to Business Objectives Once a strategic direction has been established (a path that moves the organization toward a greater fulfillment of stakeholders’ needs), it needs to align its business objectives with that direction. In essence, once the company has defined WHO (stakeholders) it serves and WHERE (strategic direction) it wants to go, it needs to build a series of WHATS (business objectives) that will get them to the WHERE. Business objectives should be stated in context of the strategic direction they support. This way, there can be no doubt why the business objective is important. Good business objectives are specific enough to leave nothing to interpretation. Good objectives contain the criteria for knowing when success has been achieved and plainly states the challenge. Real alignment within an organization happens when top management provides a strategic direction that is supported by business objectives that rally and compel the workforce to action.

Factor #11 - Alignment of Business Objectives to Value-added Delivery Systems and Process Groups Once the business objectives are established they need to be correlated with each of the VADS that will support them. Value-added Delivery Systems (VADS) represent processes that provide stakeholders with expected value. They are end-to-end work processes that have the conscious intent to provide specific products and services to the stakeholders of an organization. Examples include: • The process of selling (from point of order through delivery and payment) - Here the stakeholders are the customer (receiving value for money), and the owners or stockholders (making a profit on the sale). • The process of compensating employees (from beginning of a pay period through paycheck distribution) - Here the stakeholders are the employee (receiving money for services provided), and the employer (receiving labor or value for money). • The process of divisional business planning (from reviewing the organization’s strategy & business objectives to assessing last years performance, or developing divisional objectives and action plans to creating budgets and to getting approval); here, the stakeholders are everyone connected to the organization (customers, employees, owners, vendors and community). • In each of these examples, the VADS encompasses many transactions and process groups. HELIX provides a way to align business objectives with VADS. The HELIX process promotes this alignment both explicitly and implicitly.

Factor #12 -Alignment of Value-Added Delivery Systems and Process Groups to the Information Being Shared & Moved Process groups share information among themselves and other process groups. This information typically relates to completing a portion of a larger effort. When the sales desk completes and sends the sales order to the Credit department for approval, they are performing only a small piece of work in the sales process. The act of sending the order to the Credit department implies that more work will need to be done before the order can be complete its cycle. The Credit department, in turn, adds value to the order by approving it and authorizing it for shipment. This act of sharing information to move work through the organization does not happen by accident. Aligning and understanding how and why process groups share information sets the stage for breakthrough process improvements.

Factor #13 -Alignment of Information Being Shared to Stimulus Triggers and Process Group Actions Stimulus triggers are the visual, audio, tactile or other sensory cues that let a person know when to take action. Within the context of HELIX, a stimulus trigger alerts a knowledge worker that it is time to perform a predetermined set of actions related to information moving through a specific VADS. In traditional work environments, stimulus triggers often take the form of paperwork appearing in front of someone. But stimulus triggers take many forms. For a hotel front-desk clerk, a stimulus trigger is a guest appearing at the front desk. The guest’s mere appearance alerts the clerk to inquire how they can help the guest. At that point, a key placed on the counter could trigger the actions needed to check the guest out of the hotel. For a firefighter, the sound of a siren triggers the actions needed to put out a fire. • When embarking on an effort to improve VADS-related work processes, it is important to understand explicitly the stimulus triggers that will occur and the subsequent actions that are to be taken. It is also important to understand how fast an action is to be taken once the trigger has occurred. • Finally, there needs to be an understanding of the frequency of these stimulus triggers within a given time frame. In short, stimulus triggers must be understood in terms of what they are, how fast an action must be taken and how often they occur. Understanding stimulus triggers raises the knowledge workers conscious awareness of what is going on around them in the workplace. They become more competent in their interpretation of cues. They learn how to focus on stimulus triggers and disregard distractions. Their perceptual acuity is heightened. In essence, in a field full of flowers and weeds, they are being trained to recognize the flowers while not being distracted by the weeds.

Factor #14 - Alignment of Process Group Actions to Process Sequence Along with understanding the stimulus triggers that cue people to take action, it is important for the VADS team to understand the sequence in which these actions must take place. Rework, inefficiency and failure are often the result of people taking the right actions in the wrong sequence. By using the HELIX workflow mapping techniques and correlating these maps back to the change analysis, action-sequencing errors can be identified and engineered out of VADS.

Factor #15 - Alignment of Process Sequence to VADS Object Transformations To understand where action-sequencing errors exist there needs to be an understanding of the relationships between process sequence and the concept of object transformation. In the context of workflows, objects are the core subject matter being moved through a process. As an object is moved from one process group to another, it changes, it transforms. This means that it has different characteristics coming out of the process group than it had going in. These transformations manifest themselves as changes in the status of the object. One of the keys to designing effective and efficient VADS is to understand how and when objects transform as they move through a process. Failure to understand object transformation results in rework, reduced customer service levels, frustration and costly errors.

Factor #16 - Alignment of VADS Object Transformation to the Value-added As objects transform, they should have a discernible increase in value. This means that the transformation of an object leads directly to the completion of the current VADS cycle or positions a future cycle for success. When engineering VADS, it is imperative that each object being transformed be tested for the value that transformation has on current and future VADS cycles. Understanding object transformation in context to adding value to VADS requires breaking processes down to their most fundamental level. By streamlining VADS to focus only on the steps needed to transform the primary and secondary objects, true improvements can be realized. Think of the process of aligning object transformations as a chiropractor aligning the vertebrae of the spine to allow the nervous system to function properly. This alignment process tunes a VADS to operate at peak efficiency.

Factor #17 - Alignment of VADS Object Transformation to Process Failures and VADS Impediments For every action that can go right, there is at least one way it can go wrong. There is little likelihood that a flawless process that involves people can ever be developed. Chaos theory teaches that there are too many variables to control to have 100 percent predictability over outcomes. Part of developing VADS that are “watertight” requires that we take an honest look at where they can breakdown. Once the processes, sequences and object transformations are understood and aligned, it is possible to systematically develop recovery scenarios for those instances when the VADS breaks down. Breakdowns occur for many reasons. The key is to develop recovery procedures for breakdowns that may affect critical objects from properly transforming. This means that each VADS needs to have integrated, early-warning systems and fail-safe stimulus trigger procedures. This allows people to identify, avoid or respond to breakdowns as soon as possible.


Most resistance to BPI comes from within an organization. Managers often do not wish to change existing structures because they feel threatened by changes to their organization or power.[12] The labor force may resist BPI because of fears of layoffs; however, an organization using BPI on a regular basis, argue many proponents, will already have the proper work force to meet existing business challenges.

Some organizations have implemented BPI on a smaller scale and reported success, by doing the following:

  • Start with a small process that can be completed in a short time frame.
  • Set clear timelines.
  • Do not spread resources thinly and focus on the short term payoff.
  • Management and primary stakeholders must be involved, or else even a limited implementation will fail.

Process improvement and management[edit]

Identify, analyze and improve the Key Processes[edit]

An organization is only as good as its processes. To be able to make the necessary changes in an organization, one needs to understand the key processes of the company. Rummler and Brache suggested a model for running a Process Improvement and Management project (PI&M), containing the following steps:[13]

  1. Identify the process to be improved (based on a critical business issue): The identification of key processes can be a formal or informal exercise. The management team might select processes by applying a set of criteria derived from strategic and tactical priorities, or process selection is based on obvious performance gaps. It is important is to select the process(es) which have the greatest impact on a competitive advantage or customer requirement.
  2. Develop the objective(s) for the project based on the requirements of the process: The focus might be on quality improvement, productivity, cost, customer service or cycle time. The goal is however always the same; to get the key process under control.
  3. Select the members of the cross-functional team: A horizontal (cross-functional) analysis is carried out by a team composed of representatives of all functions involved in the process. While a consultant or in-house staff person can do the job, the quality of the analysis and the commitment to change is far greater with a cross-functional team.
  4. Document the current process by creating a flowchart or "organization map.": Describe the process regarding the Organizational level, the Process level and the Job/Performer level according to Rummler.[14] Develop a cross-functional process map for the process.
  5. Identify "disconnects" in the process: “Disconnections” are everything that inhibit the efficiency and effectiveness of the process. The identification should be categorized into the three levels: The Organizational level, the Process level and the Job/Performer level.
  6. Recommend changes (organizational, in the process or in its execution): Categorize and prioritize the main problems and possibilities, evaluate alternative solutions. Develop a cross-functional process map for the recommended process.
  7. Establish process and sub-process measures: The process measures should reflect the objectives of the project.
  8. Implement the improvements.

The elements of a successful implementation effort[edit]

  • Executive leadership and management commitment to see the project through to successful implementation.
  • A clear statement of why the change is necessary.
  • A clear vision of how the organization will be different after the changes.
  • Sound, comprehensive recommendations.
  • A sound implementation strategy and plan.
  • Adequate resources and time.
  • Communication of plans, roles and responsibilities, benefits, progress, resolutions.
  • Willingness of affected functions and individuals to support the proposed changes.
  • Implementation is effectively managed and executed.

This model for process analysis is just as useful for smaller processes as for larger and more complex processes. Completion of Steps 4-7 can take from three days to three months, depending on the complexity of the process and the extent of change required to remove the disconnects. Some of the benefits of this cross-functional team approach to process improvement are that the participants learn a tremendous amount about the overall business and their role in it. People earlier seen as unskilled might suddenly understand what is required from them, and will start behaving according to this. The increased understanding of the process will also increase the learning from additional formal training initiated, but also reduce the amount of training needed. When the organization finally understand what their key processes are they will more easily feel committed to the implementation of improvements.

Ongoing Process Improvement and Management (PI&M)[edit]

Ongoing Process Improvement and Management can be introduced by:

  • Monitoring its performance against customer-driven process measures.
  • Certifying the process (ensuring that it meets a set of effectiveness criteria).
  • Appointing a process owner who is responsible on an ongoing basis for process performance.
  • Ensuring that the process has a plan and a budget.
  • Creating a reward system which encourages process (as opposed to parochially functional) effectiveness.
  • Managing the white space between functions and seeing that their subordinate managers do the same.

The system framework of PI&M can be used both to improve the flow of a specific process and at the organizational level to examine general management issues. By introducing PI&M as a standard for continuous improvement, employees are given clear guidance as to how they are expected to behave. By this she would create clear values for a company that will have a good chance of being accepted by the whole organization.

See also[edit]

Methods and examples


  1. ^ a b Business Process Improvement (ISBN 978-0070267688)
  2. ^ a b c d e f Cook, Sarah (1996). Process improvement: a handbook for managers. Gower Publishing Ltd, et al. Retrieved February 4, 2012.  ISBN 0-566-07633-0
  3. ^ Ernst & Young Technical Report TR 90.006 HJH 8/1990
  4. ^ Harrington, H.J. (et al.) (1997). Business process improvement workbook : documentation, analysis, design, and management of business process improvement. McGraw-Hill. Retrieved March 16, 2012.  ISBN 0-07-026779-0
  5. ^ Pascal, Dennis (2007). Lean Production Simplified. ISBN 978-1-56327-356-8. 
  6. ^ "Project Management Approach For Business Process Improvement". The Project Management Hut. Retrieved April 28, 2010. 
  7. ^ Tristan Boutros and Tim Purdie. The Process Improvement Handbook: A Blueprint for Managing Change and Increasing Organizational Performance. ISBN 978-0071817660. 
  8. ^ Geary Rummler and Alan Brache (1990). Improving Performance. ISBN 978-1118143704. 
  9. ^ The Helix Factor - the key to streamlining your business processes. ISBN 978-0965980937. 
  10. ^ The Helix Factor II - the implementer's guide. ISBN 978-0965980920. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ Frank Parth. "Successful Process Projects". PMI EMEA Global Congress Proceedings, Madrid, 2006. 
  13. ^ Rummler, Geary A. and Alan P. Brache. 1991 “Managing the white space in the organization chart”, Supervision; May91, Vol. 52 Issue 5
  14. ^ Rummler, Geary A. (Jun 1996). "Redesigning the organization and making it work". CMA Magazine 70 (5). 

Further reading[edit]