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“Shelley’s ideas about how to engage leadership and how to get the project to succeed at Dey were important to the success of the team.”

Batch Records Team Member
Dey Pharmaceutical


Half the Time Process Improvement Fails: How to Be in the Other Half: Part 4 – Discipline

Car in pot holeHow long should a process improvement project take? What is required for success and what is optional?  What roadmap tells you what to do?

The first three parts of this blog spoke about the process charter, leadership and the process improvement team; discipline adds elements of time and structure that provide a method and schedule to make your process improvement effort successful.

First of all, let’s get clear on what process improvement is not:

  • It is not problem solving
  • It is not procedure tweaking
  • It is not job descriptions
  • It’s not workflow management, and
  • It’s not a staffing problem

Although some of these may figure in the analysis or improvement you recommend.

It is about understanding and modeling a current process, analyzing it to understand major problems and root cause, and then developing a new improved process to meet the Process Owner’s improvement targets and the needs and requirements of the customer.

But if you don’t want this method to take 9-18 months there needs to be some discipline.  Here are three things I consider critical to ensure this discipline:

  1. A BPM Methodology
  2. Required and optional analytical techniques
  3. A time boxed roadmap

1. A BPM Methodology

There are several BPM Methodologies—Six Sigma has one, Lean has one, BP Trends has one, Rummler Brache has one, and i4Process (that’s me) has one, shown below:

BPM:BPI Methodology-Color-orange-blue


What’s important about the methodology is that you have one and you know what parts you are working on.  The i4Process methodology shows how each BPI project fits within the full BPM methodology.  There is no best known methodology, so take one, use it, and then tailor it as needed to your culture.  Make the methodology a common standard for your organization.

2. Required and optional analytical techniques

There are over 100 specific techniques that a BPI team can use to model and analyze a process. These techniques might be categorized and listed  under the appropriate phase of your methodology.  But you do not need to know them all, and you certainly don’t want to use them all.  Instead, I find it useful to share with teams what the short list of techniques is and then which are required, and which are optional for their process. 

Here are the four required analytical techniques:  swim lane analysis, customer scorecard, quantitative analysis, and the I am WASTED pain points from employees.

You may not need to do any more than that.  But each process improvement project needs to look carefully at the improvement targets set by the Process Owner, and they may suggest a few more techniques.  For example, if the improvement target is about reducing cycle time, you need to use a technique like the notched time line.  If the improvement target is about reducing defects, you will want to use a root cause analysis technique.  If the improvement target is about improving the information from suppliers or customers, you will want to use a supplier evaluation technique. And there are a few more. 

3. A time boxed roadmap

Lastly the whole BPI project needs to be laid out in a scheduled roadmap.  Here is an example of one I use with a company that has one to three BPI projects going at once. 



It has a preparation phase, leadership sessions, workshop sessions with teams and their project leads and team facilitators with an experienced internal or external  consultant, and meetings  in between the workshops where the teams and their leaders by themselves.  Each project is always working on its process, and learning as they go. This method can have an elapsed time of three to four months, or I have done it in 6 days to 3 weeks.  What is important is that the dates are on the calendar, the team is committed to them, and there are scheduled meeting with the Process Owner and Executive Sponsor.  Many people see the time table as aggressive, and all issues may not be fully resolved.  The calendar represents the urgency of the project and the focus and dedication of the work.   Don’t let it drag on or the energy goes out of the balloon.

Obstacles that often lead toward failure are: 

  • Just automating the process after modeling the current state
  • Overdoing the analysis phase
  • Having meetings run by a department head vs. a BPM Facilitator
  • Letting the project time line unfold, as the team has time

The BPM methodology, required and optional techniques, and a pre-set time-boxed schedule will enable you to be establish the disciple for your BPI project.     

Want to learn more about how to build discipline into you BPI project?  Take one of my two online courses: (1) Starting and Organizing a BPM Project  or (2) Analyzing and Optimizing BPM Processes (see schedule). 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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2 comments to Half the Time Process Improvement Fails: How to Be in the Other Half: Part 4 – Discipline

  • N.J. Robinson

    This is great. I decided to step out and start my own process improvement business on the side. I have led or a member of process improvement projects throughout my career in the AF saving organizations thousands of tax dollars. I’ve never utilized many of the tools you mentioned in here and thought to be successful I would have to be a master of all.

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