BPI, Business Process Improvement
Building Your Lean Machine

By Cyndy Bolton and Merle Laird

Wikipedia states that “Business Process Improvement (BPI) is a systematic approach to help any organization optimize its underlying processes to achieve more efficient results.”

Simply put, the application of BPI to your business can help steer you in the right direction. It is a tool that can be used to modify processes with the end result being a positive lean and effective business model.

Questions like: “How can we do this better?”, or “Why does my competitor always seem to be a few steps ahead of me?” are symptomatic of the need to address your process and its effectiveness. Does your business process have deficiencies? Of course it does. Is there room for improvement? Of course there is.

Recognition of the fact that every process can be modified by factors and influences, you see that there exists flexibility for the outcome. What and how these factors are influenced by creates the product. A superior product = superior process. A deficient product = substandard process. The root of the deficiency is where your business process improvement begins.

First, you have to be committed to the process of improvement and open to creative ideas and analysis. The process involves all departments which are related to the area questing improvement. Tools used to analyze include in-person interviews, online surveys, process mapping spreadsheets and in-person presentations or summaries.

Picture your process more streamlined with less redundancies. The implementation of a BPI into your company could produce a more tightly defined marketing strategy, a renewed manufacturing process that radically cuts time and costs on the line, or possibly the redirection of budget monies to allow for a national advertising campaign.

BPI is delivered in a project related fashion. All rules of Project Management apply when designing process improvement. It’s up to you whether you decide to take the project lead on the improvement committee, or you wish to designate another professional to do so. A snapshot of your current process is taken, analyzed and then presented back to you with a new set of potential outcomes, or goals. The next step is to roll out the modifications to staff, and orient them on what their role will be towards meeting the new objectives.

The process must be of a measurable nature. This is very important. It will allow for the improvements to be tracked and reporting to continue on a scheduled basis. This procedure is learned during the process, and revisited to ensure that the objectives are being met, or exceeded. If the tracking shows that the process is failing, immediate actions can be taken to correct it, saving time and money.

Think of it this way. How important is scheduled maintenance to a NASCAR team? Do you think that over the years, the driving teams have steered their business toward the use of top notch maintenance guidelines? You bet! Through the use of BPI principles, they learn to stick to what works and drop what doesn’t. Applying this principle to their scheduled maintenance makes them leaders in their field; thus, they are rewarded with endorsements, and continue on the course of improvement. You can be rewarded too.

So the next time you find yourself banging your head against the wall of process-oriented frustration, wondering how you can improve your products and services, think of BPI. The long term benefits can morph your business into a lean, effective enterprise. Just imagine what it can do for you.