Overview of 3 Popular Business Process Improvement Methods


    This article was written by iNSIDER Expert Craig Reid.

    Over the last hundred years there have been great strides made in the advancement of business process improvement methods and technologies.

    Whilst there are a multitude of different methods and hybrid methods, in this article we look at 3 of the most popular ways of analyzing and improving business processes. Six Sigma, Lean and CEM Method.

    3 Popular Business Process Improvement Methods:

    1. Six Sigma

    Like many of today’s process improvement methods, Six Sigma originated in manufacturing in the nineteen eighties; in fact Six Sigma was invented by Motorola as a means to improve the quality of their products. Its focus is on the elimination of defects and variance.

    Six Sigma focuses strongly on measurement and statistical methods which can result in a great deal of complex calculations. Indeed the meaning of Six Sigma is a measurement of defects that equals one defect in 3.4 million.

    But beyond measurement Six Sigma has achieved waves of popularity over the last thirty years and its structure of certification including Yellow, Green and Black Belts has become almost as famous as the method itself.

    2. Lean

    Lean also emerged from manufacturing – this time from Toyota (although its origins are a hybrid of many process improvement techniques developed by Toyota staff and other leaders in manufacturing). The ethos of Lean is the elimination of waste – in particular the elimination of non-value add activities – non-value add meaning that it does not contribute to the value to the customer.

    An ideal Lean process is one which provides “perfect value” to the customer via a process that has zero waste. This is achieved via the continual optimisation of “value streams” (processes).

    Proponents of Lean advocate its usage not as a short term way of reducing waste, increasing efficiency and eliminating non-value add activities but as a transformational change that is continuous. But lean extends beyond manufacturing, and forward thinking companies across varies industries are embracing it for their own organizations.


    3. CEM Method

    The CEM (Customer Experience Management) Method is a means of improving existing business processes or designing new business processes to align with customer needs. It was created by a group of consultants working with Richard Branson’s Virgin group in the 1990’s and has rapidly gained in popularity over the last 10 years.

    The method works by focusing each process on a successful customer outcome to be achieved, and by designing the process from the outside of the organization to the inside of the organization, hence the commonly used term “outside-in”. CEM Method thereby is said to achieve greater customer alignment by focusing the process on its reason for existing – or indeed by questioning whether the process should exist at all.

    Through greater alignment, the experience is improved for the customer and operational costs are decreased by the elimination of redundant activities. Rather than just “doing things right” the focus of the CEM Method is on “doing the right things”.

    What business process improvement methods have you tried? Which proved to be the most successful?

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