Process Improvement: Recognizing Its Importance

Justin Clark, MBA

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

When you hear the words process improvement you might be tempted to think this is just “management speak” for do more with less or tighten the belt when it comes to spending. Everyone has experienced the discomfort of the annual belt tightening that never trims process fat, it just ultimately cuts to the point of causing significant operational pain.

It is also possible that you’re doing all you can to keep from drowning and the idea of building a better ship at the same time is closer to a dream than a reality. Or what if you have a process that is humming along? You or your team may be some of the highest performers.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Whether you relate to any of the three examples above or not, you must recognize that ongoing process improvement is a key to success in your business. Look at healthcare! It is a complex and dynamic market place. When aren’t things changing? Any organization that hopes to achieve and sustain success in this type of environment has to have process improvement as a part of their culture. The competitive marketplace rewards those who are constantly finding ways to deliver a better service, a faster service, and a cheaper service.

How can you do it? 

  1. Understand what Process Improvement is. Process Improvement is the proactive task of identifying, analyzing and improving upon existing business processes within an organization for optimization and to meet new quotas or standards of quality.
  2. Understand what Process Improvement is not. Process Improvement is not an annual budget strategy to reduce expenses, a process that has to be overly complicated (Six Sigma sounds scary, right?), or the responsibility of a singular department within an organization.
  3. Look around. Spend 15 minutes this week looking around at work. Look for opportunities to improve. What things can you do better, faster, cheaper? I’d be shocked if you don’t have a long list in even a short amount of time.
  4. Keep Going.  If you’re reading this, you’re already interested in leading a process improvement effort. You’re reading about leadership and that is almost certainly in an effort to improve your skills. You might not have thought of it this way, but your leadership technique is the process you’re currently focused on improving. There are a tremendous amount of resources available to continue to learn. I will explore some key elements of Process Improvement over the next three months. My examples will focus on Healthcare since that’s our field, but they will be fairly applicable across numerous disciplines. If you want to do research on your own, a quick Google search will result in hundreds upon hundreds of resources (refining the search for resources itself is a process in need of improving).

What are some additional strategies you have used to deliver direct and constructive feedback?  Log on and join the conversation at  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

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