Understanding processes so that they can be improved by means of a systematic approach requires the knowledge of a simple kit of tools or techniques. The effective use of these tools and techniques requires their application by the people who actually work on the processes, and their commitment to this will only be possible if they are assured that management cares about improving quality. Managers must show they are committed by providing the training and implementation support necessary.
The tools and techniques most commonly used in process improvement are:
Problem solving methodology, such as DRIVE
Force field analysis
Cause & effect diagrams
Statistical process control (SPC)
Dot plot or tally chart
DRIVE is an approach to problem solving and analysis that can be used as part of process improvement.
From to Quality
the scope of the problem the criteria by which success will be measured and agree the deliverables and success factors the current situation, understand the background, identify and collect information, including performance, identify problem areas, improvements and “quick wins” improvements or solutions to the problem, required changes to enable and sustain the improvements check that the improvements will bring about benefits that meet the defined success criteria, prioritise and pilot the improvements plan the implementation of the solutions and improvements, agree and implement them, plan a review, gather feedback and review
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One of the initial steps to understand or improve a process is Process Mapping. By gathering information we can construct a “dynamic” model - a picture of the activities that take place in a process. Process maps are useful communication tools that help improvement teams understand the process and identify opportunities for improvement.
ICOR (inputs, outputs, controls and resources) is an internationally accepted process analysis methodology for process mapping. It allows processes to be broken down into simple, manageable and more easily understandable units. The maps define the inputs, outputs, controls and resources for both the high level process and the sub-processes.
Process mapping provides a common framework, discipline and language, allowing a systematic way of working. Complex interactions can be represented in a logical, highly visible and objective way. It defines where issues or “pinch points“ exist and provides improvement teams with a common decision making framework. To construct a process map:
Brainstorm all activities that routinely occur within the scope of the process
Group the activities into 4-6 key sub-processes
Identify the sequence of events and links between the sub-processes
Define as a high level process map and sub-process maps using ICOR
Process maps provide a dynamic view of how an organisation can deliver enhanced business value.
“What if” scenarios can be quickly developed by comparing maps of the process “As is” with the process
From to Quality
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Another tool used in the construction of process maps is Process Flowcharting. This is a powerful technique for recording, in the form of a picture, exactly what is done in a process.
Skills & experience Customers
There are certain standard symbols used in classic flowcharts,