We know proper pruning will benefit a tree by

  • improving the structure of a young plant 
  • make the plant more beautiful by improving its natural shape 
  • boosting health by removing diseased, dead and dying branches to deter pests and disease 
  • making it safer by avoiding falling limbs and controlling size, if needed 
  • rejuvenate the plant allowing room for new growth 

Now think of your company as a tree with plenty of years and vigor ahead of it.  Your quest for quality through a continuous process improvement (CPI) can be like a pruning process.  You focus on smaller, regular improvements to make the company better.  This is different from reacting to problems that arise.  For example, when a customer calls with a complaint, your team will react quickly, jump into problem-solving mode and correct the problem.  In continuous improvement mode, everyone is focused on getting small-step improvements rather than launching a huge improvement initiative. When you use this approach, you look at what causes things to happen and then use the knowledge to 

  • Reduce variation 
  • Remove activities that have no value to the company 
  • Improve customer satisfaction 

While there are formal methodologies for implementing a CPI program, the basic idea can be used by any team that is responsible for a process.  The steps are (and this is a loop)  

  1. Analyze– team brainstorms and identifies opportunities for improvement.  (This process works but could be better. Example: time to invoice)
  2. Design -team generates solutions through brainstorming. Identify resources needed to implement and identify the baselines to measure (Takes x amount of time to do this now, for example. We spend x days to do this now, want to shorten the time) 
  3. Develop – detailed procedure for implementing the approved solution (to reduce time to invoice, we need to do the following which might include adding software or improving the communication loop) 
  4. Implement -Execute the solution 
  5. Evaluate -Decide what to measure.  Capture baseline and monitor how that is improved. 
  6. Loop back to Analysis on a regular basis to further improve the process.  

Like pruning, using a continuous improvement process allows your teams to make incremental changes on an ongoing basis.  The focus is on the process and not on individual blame or failures. I’ve seen teams become enthusiastic and motivated as they are empowered to recommend the best way to do things.  This works especially well if the teams can measure the improvements at the end of the year and owners pay an incentive for the results.  An engaged workforce with continuously improving processes results in greater value in your company. 

Are you a buyer or seller with questions about how this process could be put to work in your company?  If you’d like to discuss your situation, selling or buying a business or preparing your business for sale, please let us know. In the meantime, if you have questions or comments, I can be reached anytime via email: [email protected] or phone at: 224-688-8838.

We’re here to help you Harvest Your Potential.

Alison Hoffman

has more than 25 years of experience in strategy, operations, mergers and acquisitions and delivering business-to-business client solutions. Her areas of expertise include managing operations for profitable growth, organizational design and strategy activation. She brings a wealth of experience through her work in evaluating, valuing and purchasing over 30 companies, leading company-wide cultural and business integration projects and consolidating best practices among business processes and corresponding computing systems. Read Full Bio