Project management is made up of processes. Project managers and their teams depend on those processes to ensure that a project runs smoothly. But what about those processes? Are they chiseled in stone or can they be improved?
Too often processes are relied on as if they were somehow perfect and cannot be touched. That type of thinking is what will quickly send a project off track and possibly cause it to fail.
Complacency has no place in project management. Constantly analyzing your processes is the best way to reach a successful end. How you improve processes is through a technique called process improvement. Implementing what you learn through process improvement is done by creating a process improvement plan.
What Is a Process Improvement Plan?
Simply put, a process improvement plan is a document outlining how to improve your processes after identifying and analyzing them. In a nutshell it’s how can you get better at what you do.
The process improvement plan is part of a larger, overall project plan. It guides the project team on how to analyze the project processes and outlines where there’s room for measurable improvements. It tends to be an iterative process that occurs throughout the project’s life cycle.
The point of a process improvement plan is to find weak links in the process chain or bottlenecks that are impeding work, and then figure out ways to rectify those inefficiencies. This leads to processes being completed faster, more efficiently and with a greater quality of deliverables.
A process improvement plan will also help to reduce wasted efforts and keep teams working more productively. It helps to reduce any friction that exists in the processes, and ensures processes meet regulatory compliance standards when required.
Build a Process Improvement Plan in 7 Steps
To do the work of identifying the weak points in a process and do nothing about it is counterproductive. It might feel like the effort of creating and implementing a plan is not worth the investment.
But if you believe that there are flaws in your process and you don’t respond to improve them, you’re setting yourself up for a bigger problem down the line. Therefore, it’s always in your interest to respond to the problem and work towards resolving it. To do this requires a plan. The process improvement plan can be broken down into these seven steps.
The first step is to get a full overview of the process that needs improvements. Take that process and break it down into a map. You can use a free work breakdown structure from ProjectManager to thoroughly map every step of the process. This will help you get an idea where the weaknesses are in the process.
Now that you have the process in question mapped out and every step clearly delineated, you need to analyze the process to see where the issues might lie. Look closely at each of the steps and see where there was a problem, such as delays, over-allocation of resources, too much money spent, idle team members and so on.
Once you’ve found those problem spots, trace back the issue to its origin in order to address its cause and how to avoid it in the future. You can use tools, such as the root cause analysis method to help guide you.
Once the cause of the problem has been uncovered, it’s time to redesign the process to improve it and avoid the issue when next using it. At this point, you’ll want to bring in the whole project team.
They are, after all, the ones who have the most intimate knowledge of the process and hands-on experience with it. They’ll make sure that there are no stones left unturned and everything has been documented in the process. They’re an invaluable resource for process improvement and should be listened to.
Get their ideas on how to redesign the process and brainstorm with them for more solutions. Then analyze all the solutions offered and figure out which one is the best and most likely to improve the process. Now you’ll want to think about the schedule and whatever risks might be inherent in the redesign.
You’ve identified the problem and have a solution, now you need to get working on it. That means assigning your resources. The go-to people would be the team members who are impacted by this process and its change. However, you might need to reach out beyond that sphere to other people in the organization with the skill sets required.
Once you’ve assembled a team, give them detailed instructions on how to redesign the process and why it’s important. You can use the map you created earlier in the plan to help with this step.
This is where the process improvement plan is put into action, which means creating a detailed task list and assignments. This part of the process is just as you would create any project plan, breaking down the deliverables into tasks and assigning each team member with those tasks. A project planning software can help.
You’ll want to create a schedule with a timeline and add tasks, their duration, and any dependencies.
The better your communication, the better the project. Therefore, take the time to communicate your plan to the team and make sure they fully understand their part. Listen, be open to feedback, and make sure the team understands that they’re going to be kept in the loop throughout the whole process. This creates buy-in and helps them embrace the new process.
Once the team is executing the project, it’s important to track their progress. Monitoring is not micromanaging. It provides a window into the project and allows for any tweaks to keep it moving as scheduled.
Also, once the improvement has been implemented into the process, you have to monitor the team to make sure that they’re following it. As problems arise, the process starts again.
ProjectManager Manages Process Improvement Plans
A process improvement plan is no different than any other project plan. It requires planning, scheduling, assigning teams and tracking their progress. ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software that can do all of this and more.
Manage Tasks & Build Timelines
Once you have a process that needs improving and have a plan and team ready to execute that plan, ProjectManager comes in with the controls you need to keep the plan running smoothly. First, you can upload your task list into the software and create a project.
Once the tasks are given a duration, they show up on a Gantt chart timeline. Now you can link the dependent tasks to prevent bottlenecks. If there are changes, ProjectManager makes it easy to edit the schedule. Just drag and drop the task start and end dates.
Team Members Can Manage Their Work & Collaborate
Team members can be assigned from the Gantt chart project view, but they also have the option of managing their tasks with a task list, calendar or kanban view. Each task can have detailed directions from the project manager and even documents and images attached as needed.
Team members can then collaborate at the task level, commenting, adding files and even bringing in other team members by tagging them. They’re then notified by email and can join the conversation. Because ProjectManager is cloud-based, remote teams can collaborate wherever they are, and at any time.
Track Progress as It Happens
Project managers can use the dashboard to monitor six different project metrics at a high-level view, all in real-time. For a more detailed view, ProjectManager has one-click reports that can be filtered to show exactly the information you want. Reports are great for tracking the project and reporting back to stakeholders, so they’re always in the loop.
ProjectManager gives you the tools you need to improve any process. From making a process improvement plan to executing that plan and monitoring its progress, ProjectManager has features like Gantt charts and kanban boards, all made to foster team collaboration and productivity. Use ProjectManager for your next process improvement plan by taking advantage of our free 30-day trial today.