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Define The Opportunity For Process Improvement
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Define the Opportunity for Process Improvement

The second step to business process improvement is to define the opportunity or the problem. The objectives of this phase are to define the problem clearly, understand it and start the project documentation with a "Project Charter". This phase of improvement is a key one for the improvement specialist because it's the only time spent with the project sponsor and the leader together in the same room without any other participants. I will tell you more about the roles later.

First, the project charter should include an opportunity statement, or a mandate and the objectives to achieve. It should provide information on the expectations from the working group that will work on this project and the resources available to them. The project sponsor should also know that the project charter contains all the necessary information to market the improvement project within the organization and with its involved clients. The sponsor should use this charter as a communication tool to his/her managers / supervisors to promote the project.

Second, complete the project charter. You can use what follows to create a document in your own process improvement documentation template. Identify clearly the project sponsor or director, this role does not participate to the activities but gives the objectives and guidelines to the project. He can be consulted as needed by the project leader which participates in the project very actively. The leader is the project manager and team member. The process improvement consultant can be internal or external. He is the facilitator of the process improvement activity. He provides the methodology to achieve the objectives. His role is neutral. There are also the employees who are members of the process improvement team that will debate, argue and construct solutions to achieve the objectives.

Next, the project charter should include the problem or opportunity statement. It should be:

  1. Easy to understand
  2. Short
  3. Takes the clients perspective into consideration
  4. Describes the problem's scope
  5. Describes what needs to be fixed
  6. Aims at the desired situation
  7. Identifies who lives with this problem

Afterwards, the charter should incorporate the main objective and maybe a few secondary if there are any. Write "SMART" (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) objectives.

Fifth, the project charter should include a basic workflow analysis of the current process. This page should include the ten most general tasks or functions in the workflow of the process to improve. Twelve boxes is fine but you should try to stay close to 10 so that it is simple to explain and that everybody understands it the same way.

Next, identify the stakeholders, internal or external, affected by this project. Who will it benefit? Who will need what type of communication during the course of the implementation of the change? Here are some ideas:

  1. Clients
  2. Functions; Sales, Marketing, operations, etc...
  3. Employees
  4. Managers and executives
  5. Suppliers

Finally, a project plan should be included in the project charter. This should not be an elaborate project plan with resources and detailed activities. It should provide enough information to know when it starts, the target end date and the main milestones of the implementation.

The define phase is a short one but it's one that needs to be taken seriously. Defining the problems and the objectives is very important for the direction of the project.

Next phase: Measure.

In the mean time, happy process improvement!


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