What Is a Process Improvement Plan?

shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

Process improvement is the act of advancing business interests by refining the structure of operations in an organization, as opposed to solving problems singularly. Instead of looking only at what has been happening, staff is encouraged to examine how circumstances are being formed, taking into account all peripheral elements affecting current conditions. Process improvement moves attention away from fault-finding or assigning blame and toward working as a team to eliminate wasteful activities and streamline productivity.


One of the most trying tasks in applying this idea to an organizational strategy is encouraging employees to adopt a mentality of cooperation, instead of competition. Top leaders are essential in implementing a company-wide paradigm shift. This requires a sizable change in the way business is done in the minds of most people. The importance of process improvement is an idea that must be accepted by, and trickle down from, the top.

Selecting a Team

Process improvement starts by deciding what needs to be made better and establishing a desired outcome. Next is to elect a team of individuals especially suited for the intended purpose. Often, a document is formally recorded identifying the team's authority and what means are to be afforded in pursuit of company goals.

Process Simplification

The current method of operation is then diagrammed, producing a detailed picture of all relevant events occurring from the start of a process to its finish. This allows team members to see operations from a widened perspective and eliminate any wasteful activities that may impede production. Certain points of information are selected by which data are gathered that will be compared against later readings to monitor improvement. The team then determines whether the current methods of operation are concurrent with the desired results and corporate mission.

Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle

The team brainstorms to identify the base causes of certain difficulties within the process. It will then develop a possible plan for improvement, given these reasons. After implementing the changes, the group then tests for improvement. By comparing the data previously collected with current information, team members can recognize whether the adjustment has moved the company closer to desired results. If successful, it must still be established that the change is practical. If not, the team may return to the planning stage to refine the process. If the change is feasible, the group can either continue with the new process until further revision is necessary or return to the identification stage to discover how else the method can be refined.


Quality is a product of continuous learning. Focusing on the structure of an operation reveals how each person and department contributes to maintaining a given system. Effectiveness only increases beside our level of understanding. And as the ways in which business is done continue to expand, so must accepted ideas of identifying challenges and discovering solutions.