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What Next? Starting, Growing or Killing Process Improvement

Big and small tree  AMKnowing where the organization is in its process improvement journey is important, so you start from where you are and keep moving forward.  This article addresses three different stages–starting, growing, and killing process improvement and looks at three different areas for success.


  • Are you ready to look at your work from a customer’s perspective?
  • Do you want to streamline workflows to increase your competitive advantage?


Have you been doing process improvement projects for more than a year?  Now…

  • Do you want to take your organization to larger returns—seeing the benefits of end-to-end improvements?
  • Would you like to build continuous improvement behaviors into daily management and employee life?


  • Have you been modeling and analyzing a single process for more than 6 months?
  • Are your business process improvement (BPI) projects not getting implemented?

Below are three critical areas for a successful process improvement approach.  

  1. Assess company readiness for a process improvement approach. 

 At the STARTING  level –

If the culture is traditional and authoritative you will be facing an uphill battle; managers will be used to telling employees what to do and employees will wait to be told.  Or, maybe the culture has an Involvement environment, meaning leaders ask employees for their ideas, and this is better for process improvement,  but leaders still make the decisions.   

It will be necessary to find a few early adopter leaders who see the value of process improvement and will lead a process improvement effort in their own department.  They will have to be trained or use an outside consultant to help them with the process improvement methodology.

At the GROWING level

Now the company is probably at a level two or three level on the CMMI Process Maturity framework.  What that means for readiness is many leaders and employees understand process improvement concepts and have completed projects.  They see the value of diagramming the whole process.  Now it’s time for executives to step up and  think bigger – taking on ownership and improvement of processes as the customer sees them from beginning to end.  Executives need to drive implementation across the organization, beyond any single leader’s authority.  So they have to value the process and the customer more than the silo a single executive has in his own authority. 

At the KILLING level-

If you are doing process improvement and not seeing results or are stuck in analysis paralysis, the incentive for process work will wane and just die a quiet death.  It’s important that projects be time boxed.  Don’t spend months modeling all the As Is processes – that’ s documentation work with no results.   

Start with projects that can be modeled, analyzed and improved in three months or less.  And use outside expertise to help the internal business process improvement team  with the first projects to ensure success.  But don’t stop there.  If you design a new process and it doesn’t get implemented and adopted, that’s  a great waste of company resources.  Implementation and Adoption needs to be as important as the specific improvement recommendations.  Additionally, if you don’t have strong project management capability for implementation, use outside resources to help. They are cheap compared to a stalled result.  

 (To learn  even  more read about these topics I4Process has courses available online which will help you tailor an approach for your company with guaranteed success —Starting and Organizing a BPM Project  (Jan.  2015) and Analyzing and Optimizing BPM Processes (Nov. 2014). 

Part 2 will discuss Which Process should you choose to work on for business results and success? and How ready are your human resources?


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2 comments to Starting, Growing or Killing Process Improvement – Part 1

  • Kriss Wells

    Hi Shelley,

    I’ve definitely had process improvement projects die in that “analysis paralysis” stage. In my experience, it’s because the projects were not chosen appropriately — too long to implement solutions, not enough value add, not enough resources available, or no one to “champion” it. People then feel discouraged to continue proposing projects and the impetus for organizational change can be compromised.

    I think it would be interesting to read more about how to recover from that phase, particularly when working with those who are inexperienced with or challenged by the concept of formal process improvement or business process management. You mentioned outside resources, but what if there’s resistance to that?

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