What Is Process Improvement?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Process improvement can help you examine and enhance your business's systems. In this article, you’ll discover how to improve your processes and which project management methodologies align with process improvement.

[Featured image] A project manager leads a standup meeting while holding a black monthly calendar.

Process improvement involves examining the efficiency of business systems and finding ways to optimize them in a way that aligns with the company’s goals. This continuous improvement approach is commonly used with Lean methodology, which focuses on eliminating waste and increasing efficiency. 

4 steps for process improvement

Implement the following steps to begin process improvement for your business.

1. Understand the current challenges.

The first step to improving your business processes is to understand how they’re currently operating. Mapping out your business processes visually will help you understand how each step in the process builds on the next. You’ll also want to identify the business goals and challenges you face, such as improving delivery times while having a limited number of vehicles in your fleet.

2. Analyze and determine areas for improvement.

Gather data on how your process is currently working. In the Lean process, any challenge you face will be linked to some form of waste. When analyzing the gathered data, identify areas with waste, like inefficient scheduling or unused space in delivery trucks. Once you understand the root cause of the problem, examine why it occurs to then design a solution for it.

3. Explore solutions and redesign the process.

Engage your stakeholders to explore potential solutions. Identify an action plan, then design a new process that takes all the data you gathered into account. Map the new process to make sure you’ve included every step. It’s also important to identify key performance indicators (KPIs) so you can measure success after implementing your changes. 

4. Change your process.

Implement your redesigned process and announce it to your stakeholders and each department that’ll be affected by it. Ensure everyone is on board before rolling out the changes.

Process improvement techniques

Adapt the basic steps for process improvement using different project management techniques, including: 

  • Six Sigma

  • DMAIC (Define, measure, analyze, improve, control)

  • Kaizen

  • Lean manufacturing

  • PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act)

  • Kanban

  • TQM (Total quality management)

Related terms

Learn more about project management

To learn more about project management, consider earning the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate on Coursera. This is a six-course, beginner-level series that can be completed in as little as six months, helping you learn skills in career development, strategic thinking, change management, and more.

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