Business moves fast as customers demand more and competitors look for an edge to beat you. Excelling in this environment requires a proactive approach with continuous process improvement at the heart.

Take any business process. I have no doubt there will be hidden opportunities for process improvement. When is the last time you looked at your processes?

You could follow a program such as lean manufacturing, the Toyota Production System, Total Quality Management and the like. Or, you can just take a fresh look at your processes. You’ll be surprised by what a review could uncover. A few methods to help uncover hidden opportunities include the following:

  1. Ask the people performing the process – Outrageously simple? Possibly; however, in my experience, it is rarely done. Why not start there?
  2. Look for unexpected success – What caused the unexpected success? Can you figure out how to repeat it? It might be a process improvement opportunity.
  3. Rejoice in unexpected failure – It might seem odd but unexpected failure can be one of the easiest ways to identify opportunities. As my mentor says, if you haven’t failed, you aren’t trying hard enough. The key is to learn from your failures and find the key to success. Just think about Edison – the light bulb came after countless failures.
  4. Think about how to dramatically speed up the process – In today’s environment, speed matters. Don’t just think about 20% improvement. What would it take to double your speed? It’s likely process improvement ideas will emerge.
  5. Ask customers & suppliers – Whether internal or external, don’t overlook the unique opportunity to ask your customers and suppliers for ideas and feedback. How can you improve the link and connections between you? Multiple heads are better than one!