Project work is complex — especially considering a successful company juggles dozens of initiatives at a time.

To efficiently and effectively complete project work and contribute to overall company success, the entire organization must have adequate processes. Ignoring redundant and inefficient workflows slows everyone down, causing bottlenecks, delays, and inflated costs.

Luckily, various process improvement methodologies exist to optimize your workflows. From Kanban process mapping to Six Sigma, there’s an improvement approach that’s perfect for your team.

What’s process improvement?

Process improvement is an analytical evaluation of your current processes to improve productivity and lower overall costs. You’ll find ways to modify existing methods for new business needs, optimize workflows, and automate redundancies.

Applying continuous improvement methodologies by frequently and thoroughly examining current operations requires a lot of data, like information about existing processes and from tracked changes. And you’ll likely apply this data collection to overall business processes and specific project workflows. But once you have an improvement method and audit cadence in action, you help your team — and the company as a whole — work more efficiently and effectively, saving resources in the long run.

How does process improvement benefit a business?

Implementing a quality improvement method offers immense team and company-wide benefits. Enjoy the following rewards and more when you frequently audit and improve your processes:

  • Increased productivity: You may notice repetitive or redundant tasks through process improvement. When you eliminate or automate these tasks, you speed up output.
  • Reduced costs: Increasing productive versus unproductive time offers labor cost savings. And you might find ways to reduce resources — like using cheaper and better software — to save your employer even more.
  • Improved quality: Process improvement involves finding ways to offer a higher-quality output. You might implement proper testing methods, for example, or security checks.
  • Faster delivery cycles: By eliminating wasteful processes and redundant tasks, your product reaches the client or market quicker.
  • Agile adaptation: Process improvement stresses workflow and task visibility. This visibility means you and your team can notice roadblocks sooner and adapt on the fly.
  • Better user experience: All these benefits lead to a better deal for your customers, since you deliver a high-quality product quicker for less.

Process improvement versus business process management

Process improvement and business process management work toward the same goal — overall customer satisfaction — but differ in focus.

Process improvement seeks to positively affect customer value through general productivity, cost, and quality enhancements. Project managers might undergo process improvements or use an improvement method when auditing past projects.

Business process management is more extensive and focused on a company’s process improvement culture. This is an end-to-end process C-suite executives often take on, discussing and implementing an overall approach to process management.

10 types of business process improvement methodologies

Here are 10 of the most popular process improvement approaches. If you’re new to process management, consider trying several attractive styles, documenting your team’s experience and setting a due date to compare notes and choose the best one.

1. Six Sigma

A popular process improvement tool, Six Sigma is a data-driven approach focused on improving overall product quality by measuring inconsistencies and imperfections. This method relies on the five stages of process improvement — define, measure, analyze, improve, and control (DMAIC) — to help teams reach a failure rate of .00034%, meaning they produce nearly zero defects.

2. Total quality management (TQM)

TQM prioritizes cultivating an improvement mindset employee-wide that focuses on continually increasing customer satisfaction levels. Through education, leadership modeling, and communication, companies stress the importance of constant process improvement and how the customer is always the final judge of output quality.

3. Theory of constraints

To action this approach, you thoroughly examine processes, risks, and common bottlenecks, identifying the most problematic item first — i.e., the weakest link. You then systematically repair this constraint and move on to the next.

4. Business process management (BPM)

This is an all-encompassing approach where company executives decide on original processes and audit and improve them as the company grows. The focus throughout is to save time while increasing revenue.

5. Kanban

Initially, this method involved using Post-It Notes on a physical chalk or white-board to visualize processes, helping teams notice inefficiencies and delays. Nowadays, you can use a virtual whiteboard or similar project management tool to inspect team and organization-wide workflows.

6. Lean Manufacturing

While this method focuses on manufacturing processes (with the intent of reducing times between production phases and supplier-to-customer response times), you can apply this method’s five core principles to your process improvement approach:

  1. Identify value: Consider the customer value you can offer.
  2. Stream-map values: Map the value stream, from project start to completion, considering how each phase contributes to the value you offer your customers and where steps don’t.
  3. Create flow: Find ways to remove barriers and increase efficiency.
  4. Establish pull: Ensure that every task and project completion triggers the start of another to reduce delays.
  5. Continuously improve: Assess often, finding ways to offer customers further value and increase team productivity.

7. The 5 Whys analysis

One of the most popular (and most accessible to implement), the 5 Whys analysis involves choosing a particular challenge and investigating it by asking “Why?” five times. Let’s say you’re not gaining email responses from a marketing campaign. You might work through the following five questions with your team:

  • Why are we not gaining email responses from this marketing campaign?
    • Because nobody’s opening the email in the first place.
  • Why is nobody opening the email?
    • Because the subject line is ineffective.
  • Why is the subject line ineffective?
    • Because it’s too long, not personalized, and doesn’t contain emojis.
  • Why doesn’t it have these three things?
    • Because we hadn’t yet researched the best subject line tactics.
  • Why hadn’t we done that research yet?
    • Because we were short-staffed and focusing on blog creation.

Once you identify the root cause — being short-staffed and lacking the information necessary to create compelling subject lines — you can fix this issue.

8. Plan, do, check, act (PDCA)

This approach is all about interactive problem-solving. You choose the issue you want to solve, develop a strategic plan, try it out, check whether it’s effective, and implement it team or company-wide. You’ll typically use this method on small-scale issues, rolling out improvements once you’ve proven they work.

9. Lean Six Sigma

Combining Lean Manufacturing with Six Sigma offers a comprehensive process improvement approach focused on saving time while using data-driven insights to reduce mistakes. You’ll benefit from the qualitative approach of the former — working with teammates to reduce inefficiencies and speed up processes — as well as the quantitative approach of the latter — relying on data-driven insights to reduce mistakes.

10. Kaizen (continuous improvement)

Kaizen is a Japanese term for “good change,” now used to symbolize continuous improvement. This is more of a philosophy you’d implement and foster so everyone — from top execs to project teams — approaches their work from an improvement mindset. Within teams and across the organization, you’d build quality improvement goals, review processes, and implement changes.

Streamline team processes with Roadmunk by Tempo

Two of the harder parts of process improvement are documentation and tracking. You need to compile enough information to understand each workflow and then access updated and relevant data that helps you track progress.

Make this easy with Roadmunk by Tempo. This tool helps you create functionally excellent roadmaps to monitor every workflow and roadblock. And to take one process improvement off your plate, try Timesheets by Tempo to ensure your team uses their time wisely.