What is Business Process Improvement? Business Process Improvement In A Nutshell

Business process improvement (BPI) involves the evaluation and subsequent improvement of business processes. Business process improvement seeks to improve business processes, defined as any series of repeated tasks that create value for a customer, sponsor, or stakeholder. During BPI, each process is mapped out to identify inefficiencies. Then, the process undergoes a redesign so that it can meet new standards or performance benchmarks. 

Understanding business process improvement

In the face of a rapidly shifting global marketplace, there has never been more need for business processes to adapt to advances in technology, labor, distribution, or consumer preferences.

Processes ripe for improvement usually fall into three categories:

  1. Operational processes – or those associated with the value stream such as orders, distribution, and manufacturing.
  2. Management processes – including oversight, budgetary, and communicative procedures.
  3. Supporting processes – or those performed by support teams. In other words, technical support, recruitment, customer service, and accounting.

Common goals of business process improvement

Some of the more common process-oriented goals include:

  1. Reducing process time – how can the process be faster or more efficient? This might be achieved through the adoption of new technology or the elimination of superfluous steps.
  2. Improving output quality – given the same input of resources, how can a better quality product be produced? Being able to identify factors that cause errors or defects is a good place to start.
  3. Eliminating waste – what are the most wasteful steps in a process? Removing waste is integral because it can help a business achieve all three process goals at once.

Business process improvement methodologies

There are many BPI methodologies available, with each helping the business to apply a tried and tested framework to their improvement initiative.

The most well-utilized methodologies include:

  • Six Sigma – first developed by Motorola engineers to measure process defects and produce a near-perfect final product. Indeed, a Six Sigma Process is one that produces less than 3.4 defects per one million outputs. The DMAIC framework is a popular process improvement tool that uses Six Sigma principles.
  • Lean management – a process optimization tool that seeks to remove low value-adding steps with little impact on the final product. Lean was popularized by Toyota as a way to shorten the Order to Cash (O2C) cycle in vehicle manufacturing. The focus on lean management is maximizing consumer and business value while minimizing waste.
  • Total Quality Management (TQM) – a process improvement approach with a focus on delivering long-term customer satisfaction. TQM is a more holistic methodology that is customer-focused, process-centric, and advocates continuous improvement. It also favors collaborative communication and fact-based decision-making.
  • Agile – heavily used in the software development industry with a “fail fast” philosophy of iterative product development and delivery. Errors are detected and subsequently removed from agile development early on, leading to improvements in efficiency and customer value.

Key takeaways:

  • Business process improvement is a general term for the evaluation of business processes with the goal of improving them.
  • Business process improvement is primarily focused on reducing process time, improving output quality, and eliminating waste.
  • Business process improvement methodologies include the Six Sigma-based DMAIC framework. Lean management, Agile, and Total Quality Management are also popular.

Connected Concepts And Business Frameworks

STAR Method

The STAR method is an interview technique that is used to answer behavioral interview questions. The STAR method is a technique that an interviewee can use to help prepare for behavioral or situational interview questions that assess important skills. STAR is an acronym comprised of four factors that make the question answering framework: situation, task, action, and result.

Vroom-Yetton Decision Model

The Vroom-Yetton decision model is a decision-making process based on situational leadership. According to this model, there are five decision-making styles guides group-based decision-making according to the situation at hand and the level of involvement of subordinates: Autocratic Type 1 (AI), Autocratic Type 2 (AII), Consultative Type 1 (CI), Consultative Type 2 (CII), Group-based Type 2 (GII).

TDODAR Decision Model

The TDODAR decision model helps an individual make good decisions in emergencies or any scenario with a high degree of uncertainty. TDODAR is an acronym of the six sequential steps that every practitioner must follow, comprising: time, diagnosis, options, decide, act/assign, review.

Blindspot Analysis

A Blindspot Analysis is a means of unearthing incorrect or outdated assumptions that can harm decision making in an organization. The term “blindspot analysis” was first coined by American economist Michael Porter. Porter argued that in business, outdated ideas or strategies had the potential to stifle modern ideas and prevent them from succeeding. Furthermore, decisions a business thought were made with care caused projects to fail because major factors had not been duly considered.

Foursquare Protocol

The Foursquare Protocol is an ethical decision-making model. The Foursquare Protocol helps businesses respond to challenging situations by making decisions according to a code of ethics. It can also be used to help individuals make decisions in the context of their own moral principles. It consists of four steps: gather the facts, understand previous decisions, assess the degree of similarity to past events, and assess yourself.

Working Backwards

The Amazon Working Backwards Method is a product development methodology that advocates building a product based on customer needs. The Amazon Working Backwards Method gained traction after notable Amazon employee Ian McAllister shared the company’s product development approach on Quora. McAllister noted that the method seeks “to work backwards from the customer, rather than starting with an idea for a product and trying to bolt customers onto it.”


Eighteen years later, it was adapted by psychologist Bob Eberle in his book SCAMPER: Games for Imagination Development. The SCAMPER method was first described by advertising executive Alex Osborne in 1953. The SCAMPER method is a form of creative thinking or problem solving based on evaluating ideas or groups of ideas.

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