How to Measure and Improve Processes

How to Measure and Improve Processes


Many of us take summer vacations in the family car and trust that we will not have a problem on the road. Our cars are equipped with indicators that detect oil pressure, cooling temperature, fuel level, speed, direction and tire pressure. On top of these indicators, many of us include a GPS system just in case we get lost. While these types of monitoring systems feel like a must in our personal lives, they often don’t seem as necessary in our business processes.

On July 14-15, CIE’s Professional Development Center offers “Measuring & Improving Processes,” a seminar designed to teach how key process indicators can offer early warnings when work processes don’t perform as expected. Virtually all of us use some measurement or technique to check the result of our work, but for most, there is usually only one measurement in our processes. The basis for strong measurement systems is to have a good understanding of the customer’s requirements. This will reduce the probability of not satisfying your customer.

The "Measuring & Improving Processes" seminar identifies simple techniques on how to effectively gather critical customer requirements and tie them to process indicators.

  • How do managers measure process? Processes should be monitored using various measurement tools such as Pareto Charts, Histograms and Trend Charts which are all designed to display information on process performance. Each tool gives you a different view of how your process is performing. A “Corporate Dashboard” can be designed to monitor the performance of your key process activities, such as errors, poor supplies, process time, etc. (The above charting tools are taught in the seminar.)

  • How do managers determine the cause of problems? It is very important to create a map of all critical business processes to give you a graphic representation of how your work gets done. Then, using your “process map,” collect data on critical elements of each process such as time, error rates, handoffs, etc. This will help you identify a baseline for your normally operating processes.

  • How do managers correct problems? When a process problem occurs, tools such as Trend Charts, Fishbone and Scatter Diagrams may be used to determine the cause of the problem to avoid jumping to conclusions and possibly implementing the wrong solution. If, for example, you provide a service that typically takes 4 days to complete but has recently been taking 5, you won’t have to start throwing solutions at it until you fix the problem. You can now analyze the data on the various stages of the service to see what has changed. Once the cause of the problem is identified, multiple solutions may present themselves to reduce or eliminate the cause of the problem.

  • The list of solutions are then filtered and prioritized using a Criteria Rating Form which allows solutions with the lowest cost and ease of implementation to be considered first (low hanging fruit).

Each of the tools identified above will be taught and practiced in the seminar using a real-world case study.

- Joe Brancaccio, instructor of "Managing & Improving Processes"


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