The Power of Business Process Improvement: 10 Simple Steps to Increase Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Adaptability
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The Power of Business Process Improvement: 10 Simple Steps to Increase Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Adaptability

by Susan Page

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Every business depends on processes to deliver on its promises to customers, keep its employees working productively, and stay competitive. Yet, to most business managers, the task of systematically examining and improving administrative processes seems overwhelming, complicated, and mind-numbing.

The good news is you don’t


Every business depends on processes to deliver on its promises to customers, keep its employees working productively, and stay competitive. Yet, to most business managers, the task of systematically examining and improving administrative processes seems overwhelming, complicated, and mind-numbing.

The good news is you don’t need to be a Six Sigma master or a reengineering whiz to apply BPI to solving your department’s problems and achieving successful results for your company. Written by an experienced process analyst, The Power of Business Process Improvement will teach you how to tackle process improvement work in a bottom-line, straightforward approach. This how-to guide provides a comprehensive roadmap to help you accomplish BPI in ten simple steps, while engaging your colleagues.

Throughout, you’ll find proven techniques, practical tools, handy time estimates, and enlightening scenarios to help you achieve the three major objectives of BPI:

Effectiveness: Does the process produce the desired results? Does it deliver what the customer wants?

Efficiency: Does the process minimize the use of in-house resources and eliminate bureaucracy? Is it easy for employees to follow?

Adaptability: Is the process flexible to changing needs?

With The Power of Business Process Improvement, you’ll be able to identify and prioritize the processes that need fixing, eliminate redundancy and bureaucracy, control costs, reduce errors, delight customers, and give your organization an edge on continuous improvement.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"With The Power of Business Process Improvement to lead the way, business managers will have the power to help their business stay competitive and responsive to customers, as well as nimble and resilient." —The Work Style Magazine

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

C H A P T E R 1

The Roadmap

Learning How to Navigate

Have youu ever had a problem that you know little or nothing

about land on your desk at work? Does the problem make you

feel overwhelmed and uncertain as to where to begin? Challenges

like this usually occur when you already have a full workload,

unrealistic deadlines, and limited resources. What can you

do when you feel lost, like Hansel or Gretel trying to find your

way out of the forest?

Learning to navigate through unfamiliar territory goes a

long way toward easing the burden and can help you feel comfortable

dealing with the unknown. Business process improvement

(BPI) work, the systematic examination and improvement

of administrative processes, can seem scary and overwhelming

because no one teaches this navigation skill in school. But once

you give it some thought, everything is a process, from making

breakfast for yourself in the morning to building the space shuttle.

In both cases, you follow a series of actions or steps to bring

about a result. Making breakfast, no matter how informal, is still

a process. You brew the coffee, cook the eggs, and toast the

bread. If Vince Lombardi had run a business instead of a football

team, we might remember him today for saying that process

isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

The techniques covered in this book help smooth the

path to successful BPI by clearing away the unknowns and delivering

the power of process improvement directly into your

hands. Whether you consider yourself an expert on the subject

or do not see yourself as a process person, you will appreciate

learning how to tackle process improvement work in a bottomline,

straightforward approach. For the inexperienced, The

Power of Business Process Improvement guides you along a

proven, step-by-step approach to a successful result; for the expert,

it becomes a handy A-to-Z reference guide to help you engage

an organization in a process improvement effort.

This guide cuts through the long, confusing, and difficult-

to-comprehend explanations regarding BPI and takes you

directly to the core of what you, the business professional, want

to understand. It describes a pragmatic approach to business

process improvement that I developed over the years and that

anyone can use in real time to solve real problems. The ten simple

steps to increasing the effectiveness, efficiency, and adaptability

of your business processes start with the creation of a

process inventory and end with how to keep a business process

continually delivering value to the business.

If you want to evaluate how your company hires employees,

secures sales, or manufactures a product, examining the underlying

processes helps you better understand how the

business works. Every day we experience challenges with inefficient

or ineffective processes and, after you start thinking of

business processes as the foundation to the business, you begin

to see the power of having a process focus and wonder why you

waited so long to change your perspective.

Bill Gates wrote in his book Business @ the Speed of

Thought: Succeeding in the Digital Economy (Business Plus,

2000) that ‘‘A rule of thumb is that a lousy process will consume

ten times as many hours as the work itself requires.’’ We have all

seen bureaucracy and red tape continually added to a business

process. Bureaucracy happens not all at once, but incrementally

over time. A business process can easily become bloated, leading

to an ineffective, inefficient, and inflexible process.

Improving business processes enables you to stay competitive

and to increase your responsiveness to your customers,

the productivity of your employees doing the work, and your

company’s return on investment. The expertise to examine and

understand how business processes work sets you apart from

the rest because you have the power to demonstrate the value

that the process delivers, its importance to your company, and

the effect that a single change can produce.

People become interested in process improvement for

any number of reasons. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

• Your customers, clients, or suppliers complain about the

business process.

• You find that your department makes numerous errors and/

or makes the same one again and again.

• You want to understand how your department can improve

its efficiency so that your employees can spend their limited

time on more valuable work.

• You have accepted responsibility for a new business or

department, and you want to understand the work.

• You discovered challenges with the handoffs between


• You want to increase your department’s productivity.

• You noticed duplication of data or tasks in multiple departments.

• You started a new job and want to understand how the

department works.

If you encountered one or more of these experiences,

then BPI can help. It improves your ability to meet your customer’s

needs, helps you eliminate errors, identifies opportunities to

yield a more effective and efficient process, assists you in learning

the end-to-end process for a new part of the business, makes

clear the relationship between departments and the roles and

responsibilities of each, improves your department’s productivity,

and eliminates redundancy.

Working on business processes helps demystify the process

and makes a seemingly complex process less intimidating.

Process improvement work also gives you the chance to engage

a cross-functional team in the work so that everyone can learn

the end-to-end business process, instead of simply focusing on

his or her own piece of the process. You will find that, as you

do the work, few employees understand the end-to-end process.

Employees may understand their own piece, but not how the

entire process works from beginning to end. When a team works

together on improving business processes, the work itself provides

a means for colleagues to talk about common topics, and

the team effort promotes an understanding of the interconnectivity

of their work.

When you focus on a business process, it appears less

threatening to colleagues than focusing on the employees who

do the work. The process of finding challenges and linking those

challenges to the process instead of to a particular employee

leads to easier, less threatening solutions. No one employee or

group of employees has to worry about repercussions.

On the other hand, BPI does affect the entire business

system, including the employees who do the work; the information

technology systems that support the process; the measurements

established to assess the effectiveness, efficiency, and

adaptability of the process; and reward and recognition programs

that exist in a company.

If you still find yourself wondering whether you should

undertake a process improvement effort on one of your processes,

ask yourself four questions. If you answer no to any of

these questions, you should start examining your business processes:

1. Does your process include a high level of customer/client


2. Does every step in your process add value for the customer/


3. Have you established customer- or client-focused metrics

for the business process?

4. Are your employees evaluated on their contribution to the

business process?

Throughout this book, the term customer refers to someone

external to a company who pays money for a product or

service. The term client denotes an internal customer within a


If you work as an internal consultant in your company,

then you probably work with clients. The client’s business processes

should support the company’s business goals, which in

turn should support the paying customer. Remember, in business

process work, the customer is king, and you should always

focus on the customer.

Can You Do It?

Many of the process improvement books on the market

support the myth that business process improvement must be

time-consuming and complex. The Power of Business Process

Improvement shows that nothing is further from the truth. It

presents you with numerous tools and examples that you can

use to make the work simple and yet maintain high standards.

Perhaps you have shied away from process improvement

because it looks like something that only an expert can do. In

reality, you can do this work without having to learn the ins and

outs of quality management or reengineering. This book shares

my own unique approach to BPI, an approach influenced by

both quality and reengineering, that works for me every time. I

have successfully used the approach outlined with every employee

level in different and complex situations. It works. It

works even with people who start out as skeptics.

As you apply the ten simple steps introduced in this chapter0

and covered in depth in the chapters that follow, you will

find yourself adopting several of the quality and reengineering

philosophies because the focus on the customer is at their core,

but you use them in a seamless way that makes the work palatable

to the business.

I geared each step toward ease of use. This book answers

basic questions and elaborates on how to perform each step by

demonstrating its application. It explains topics that no one ever

bothers to tell you about, either because book authors, consultants,

or colleagues assume that you already know about them

or because they do not want you to know the full story, believing

that knowledge is power and wanting to hold onto that power.

The various BPI books on the market remind me of getting a

favorite recipe from a restaurant, but with some key ingredient

missing. This book tells you the whole story and gives you the

power of knowledge.

You will feel comfortable with the formulas that I use

throughout the book because they are the ones commonly used

in business. You do not have to understand complicated statistical

measurements of process capability or know how to use Six

Sigma, Lean, Kaizen, or other quality methods. You have everything

you need right now, so let us begin the journey.

Meet the Author

SUSAN PAGE is an experienced business process improvement consultant for the computer, banking, and entertainment industries.  She has a Master’s degree in Computer Information Systems and is a graduate of the WOMEN Unlimited LEAD program.  She currently works for a major entertainment company in Orlando, Florida. 

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