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“At Palmchip, where I was VP of Marketing, Shelley was able to use her experience along with her knowledge of core marketing processes to keep our project on schedule and meet budget targets. She is articulate in explaining both her methodology and its benefits to high-level executives, as well as to managers and staff members. This is a key to obtaining early and complete buy-in, which, in my experience, in critical to the success of a project.”

Vice President


Half the Time Process Improvement Fails: How to Be in the Other Half: Part 1

Car in pot found that 54% of process improvement projects fail for theses top three reasons:



  • Scope creep
  • Resistance by the end users and key stakeholders
  • Lack of executive sponsorship

My experience certainly confirms these three big challenges in a process improvement project.

So an organization has to set the up the process improvement project carefully, be attentive to the project modeling, analysis, and redesign phase, and be vigilant during implementation.  Don’t wait until you have to build contingency plans or create band-aided solutions. Here are three fail-safe methods to ensure success:

  1. Build and use a Project Charter
  2. Select the appropriate business process improvement leaders and team
  3. Use a time-boxed disciplined approach 

Charter Screen 2012-05-10  AM

I didn’t use to create a charter, but rather worked with the executive leader to develop improvement targets and a vision and document a high-level map.  But I found that wasn’t enough.  The business process improvement (BPI) team put these initial elements in a file on a desktop and often never looked at them again.

Now I work with 4 key leaders—the Executive Sponsor, Process Owner, Project Lead, and Team Facilitator to build the charter as the initial step in the BPI plan.

Here’s what the charter contains:

  1. Name of the Process
  2. Key Challenges – operational and customer
  3. High-Level As-Is map
  4. Scope
  5. Technology and Data Sources
  6. Improvement Targets
  7. Metrics and their Values
  8. Process Vision
  9. Staffing Needs

I elicit the charter elements in that order because this sequence keeps the leaders on track.  It only takes 60-90 minutes to create the first draft, but it gets the project off the to right start.

When the charter is done, the group is clear about 

  • The focus of the project – by its name, the scope, and the high-level map which defines where the process starts and ends and what’s in between in 6-10 steps.
  • The two to three improvement targets and vision enumerate the goals for the project and the vision of what the process looks like when it is working well.  And of course there are metrics for each improvement target to quantify the current state, and then later have the Process Owner articulates what success metric value is expected when improvements are implemented.  The improvement targets give the executive’s perspective on what needs to be done.  They focus the project for the BPI team.  The baseline measures show what the process needs to move beyond. 
  • The charter also lists the team resources and spells out their roles and responsibilities.  It identifies the specific managers and employees for the team, with the understanding that the Process Owner will get their agreement to be this team resource. I will cover those in the next blog in this series.

 Here’s why the charter is critical.

  • It get the four leaders on the same page.  It aligns them around the key challenges, clarified scope, two to three improvement targets and vision, and verbalizes how all these relate to the strategic intent. 
  • The outside consultant or internal Team Facilitator co-creates the charter with these leaders, so they design the foundation together
  • The Project Charter meeting is really a launch meeting for the four leaders, and it builds and confirms the focus and improvements as well as forming the relationship among the four leaders. 
  • It documents the process diagram and moves the leaders to initial process thinking.
  • It becomes the ongoing document for the BPI project.  It is the reviewed constantly to keep the project on track. The Project Charter combines several elements and puts them all in one place.  In contrast, methodologies like Lean or Six Sigma focus on a single element and leave out critical elements of the Project Charter, or spread them over a variety of places, making it difficult to refer to them together on a regular basis.   

Want to learn how to build the BPI Project Charter? Take my online class, Starting and Organizing a BPM/process Improvement Project May 21 and 22.  Or purchase my new book, The BPI Blueprint:  A Step-By-Step Guide to Make Your Business Process Improvement Projects Simple, Structured and Successful.  

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