No organization can find long-term success without continuously working to improve. Business leaders need to consistently search out ways to save time, boost productivity and reduce redundancies — and fortunately, there are methods for accomplishing just that. Here are nine of the most popular improvement methods for business leaders to use in their organizations today:
Plan Do Check Act, or PDCA, is a cycle for initiating and assessing changes to processes that allows for continuous improvement. One of the first and most famous improvement methods, PDCA is easy for almost every business to implement. The steps of the PDCA cycle include:
- Plan: Identify an opportunity to make a change and plan the change.
- Do: Carry out a small-scale study to test the change.
- Check: Review the test and determine whether any changes need to be made to the plan.
- Act: Set the plan in motion. If the Act step proves unsuccessful, start over with a new plan.
The objective of the Lean Method is eliminating waste to improve efficiency and thus boost the value of business processes. First implemented in the industrial sector, Lean is now a beloved improvement methodology for all types of businesses. The method is based on five core principles:
- Value: How the customer values a company’s product
- The value stream: What processes are required for developing the product
- Flow: How processes flow from one to the next without interruption
- Pull: That no process comes before it is needed
- Perfection: Which changes business leaders can make to pursue perfection
While other process improvement methods focus on eliminating waste, Six Sigma emphasizes the importance of reducing variation and enhancing control. Six Sigma requires all processes to be defined and their inputs and outputs measured, and then this data is driven through various tools for statistical analysis to find ways to tighten control. Business leaders can become Six Sigma certified to ensure their processes have Six Sigma quality.
Taking the data-driven philosophy of Six Sigma and the value-focused approach of lean, Lean Six Sigma works to prevent defects in processes rather than detect and alter defects after they have appeared. The methodology takes the most effective and most successful strategies from the two most popular methods to create a customer-centric model for continuous process improvement.
Dynamic work design is an improvement method that takes inspiration from psychology and sociology to develop workflows that better suit employees and teams. Business professionals can learn more in a business process management online course, but the gist of dynamic work design is summed in these four principles:
- Guide activity and intent. Every process should drive an organization toward its goals.
- Create checkpoints and triggers. Problems should be visible, and responses should be planned.
- Build in creative problem-solving. An ineffective process should be immediately altered with solutions.
- Manage challenges. Processes should be challenged to ensure continuous improvement.
Balanced Scorecard, or BSC, involves collecting and analyzing large amounts of data about the objectives, initiatives and goals of a business, which is then presented in a unified report so business leaders can use a single tool to review operations. The data is organized into four separate areas, or legs, which are:
- Learning and growth: How well information is captured and how employees use information to improve.
- Business processes: How well products are manufactured.
- Customer perspectives: How customers feel about the quality, price and availability of products.
- Financial data: How the business is performing financially.
KPIs are key performance indicators, or a measurable value that demonstrates whether a company is achieving its objective. The method itself involves several steps for creating objectives, identifying measures and interpreting results to create effective processes. These days, most businesses utilize KPIs, even if they don’t adhere closely to the KPI method.
While other methods rely on business leaders to initiate major changes to business processes, the Kaizen method places the responsibility of improvement on employees. Kaizen involves incremental positive change by developing a culture in which workers have authority and confidence to alter processes to drive efficiency.
Not all methods are created equal. Business leaders should experiment with different methods to find the one that most suits their processes and organizations.