8 Steps to Continuous Improvement

Process Improvement with TrackVia

You are likely familiar with the expression “the right tool for the right job”. This phrase implies a synergy between jobs and tools. Paired with the right tool, the job can be completed faster and safer. Paired with the right job, the tool can perform optimally, last longer, and avoid unintended risk. As a process improvement professional who has used TrackVia for over 10 years, I’ve concluded that: (1) My processes perform better with TrackVia, and (2) TrackVia performs better on improved processes. In other words, process improvement (the right job) and TrackVia (the right tool) go better together than apart.

Let me illustrate my affinity for the process improvement and TrackVia pairing by first describing what they look like without each other, and then concluding with eight steps for keeping them together in a cycle of continuous improvement.

Process Improvement without TrackVia
Prior to TrackVia, I struggled to ensure consistent business process execution using lightweight tools like paper, spreadsheets, email, and shared drives; and I could rarely justify the time and expense of robust software coded from scratch. Though the lightweight tools were better than nothing, they required significant manual effort to maintain and achieved only mediocre results.

Without good tools for execution, process improvement was a bipolar experience for me – it would begin with the hope and enthusiasm of improvements revealed through process analysis and design, but it would generally conclude with the letdown of mediocre execution.

All that changed after I was introduced to TrackVia. I found TrackVia to be robust like enterprise software, but nimble like spreadsheets. I could use it to execute, control, and improve almost any business process – with speed and excellence. TrackVia became my superpower!

TrackVia without Process Improvement
You may have heard it said, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

I confess that I am guilty of not always following this wisdom. Shortly after discovering the power of TrackVia, I got overzealous to build apps. I started looking at the app as the goal, instead of the tool. In these cases, I skipped over the process improvement and went straight to automation. Fortunately, most of these apps were benign and affected only me.

However, I do recall building one specific app that impacted multiple stakeholders and caused a brief period of chaos because I didn’t first assess and improve the process. The process was ridiculous in that it required up to 15 sequential approvals for completion. When the process was manual, people tolerated it because they rarely followed it. Once the process became automated, there was no choice but to follow it. I’ll skip the details of the chaos and frustration that resulted, but I’ll say that it looked a lot like a blender mixing something on high speed — with its top off and people shouting, “Turn it OFF! Turn it OFF!”

This example is my constant reminder to check my process before I automate it.

Continuous Improvement
Inspired by the mistakes of my past, I am now intentional about keeping process improvement and TrackVia together – where they fit best – in a cycle of continuous improvement.

These are the steps I follow:

Step 1 – Define the problem you want to solve.
Step 2 – Document the current state of your process.
Step 3 – Identify the waste in your process (i.e., areas that are inefficient or ineffective).
Step 4 – Design the improved state of your process.
Step 5 – Create a roadmap of manageable projects that lead from the current to improved state.
Step 6 – Execute the first project on the roadmap and iterate until it addresses the defined problem.
Step 7 – Reflect on lessons learned and adjust the roadmap, if necessary.
Step 8 – Repeat steps 6 and 7 for subsequent projects on the roadmap.

Execution in step 6 is where I like to use TrackVia. It used to be the step of major disappointment, but now it’s where the magic happens. Even though step 6 is significantly easier with TrackVia, do yourself a favor and don’t skip over the process improvement disciplines of steps 2 through 4 – your stakeholders will thank you.

Support
If this resonates with you, but process improvement isn’t exactly your area of expertise, know that I am here to help – it’s why TrackVia hired me!

I provide three levels of support for process improvement:

  • Level 1 – Planning
  • Level 2 – Workshops
  • Level 3 – Coaching

Planning is geared towards those who want just a little help getting pointed in the right direction. It generally takes only a couple of hours.

Workshops are beneficial to those who want me to lead steps 1 through 5 for a specific process. Workshops typically span one to two weeks.

Coaching is for those who want to develop the habit and culture of continuous improvement. We meet one hour per week for several months to teach, plan, assign homework, and review progress.

To start the conversation, you can reach out to me on LinkedIn.

Never stop improving!