Process Improvement Steps

There are five basic steps in any improvement process. They may be called different names, have slightly different approaches, but all have the same fundamental requirements:

Process Improvement Steps

Continuous improvement utilizing Analytical Techniques.
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1) Define the problem.

2) Analyze and Quantify.

3) Establish Root Cause(s).

4) Solve the Problem(s).

5) Monitor the Results.



Step 1: Define the problem.

Before beginning ANY problem solving process OR continuous improvement project, it is VITAL to establish a clear statement of the problem or project.


In defining and understanding a problem or a task:


Fact based analytical techniques should be applied.

The team members should be familiar with the selected improvement techniques.

There should exist within the team, individuals with demonstrated records of successfully applying the improvement methodologies.

The team needs to encompass a cross-sections of individuals who represent the key potentially impacted stakeholders.

There needs to exist a sufficient level of technical expertise so that as discussion progresses on the problem, then questions can be competently answered.



Step 2: Analyze and Quantify

When seeking to solve a problem, it is important to ensure that the root cause of the problem is identified and understood rather than addressing a symptom of the problem.

The objective of this phase is to understand the “when”, “where”, “how” and “why” the problem is occurring.

The individual or team tasked with achieving a process improvement will collect fact based data on the problem, looking for clues, along the following lines:


Does the problem occur at a particular time?

Does the problem occur at a particular place ? (workstation, department, location in process, etc.)

Is the problem related to a single product or over a range of products?

Are only some customers affected, or does customer feedback indicate a broad generic problem?

Have we a history of similar problem arising? Was this problem investigated previously? Was action taken to address?

Examine the problem under different situations.



Step 3: Establish Root Cause.

The fundamental requirement in successful process improvement is to identify, understand and address the root cause of a problem. It is critical that the root cause is addressed not some symptom of the problem.

The data collected in the “analyze and quantify” phase will hold the key to identifying the root cause. The task of the process improvement team or individual charged with implementing an improvement is to interrogate the data available and extract the root cause from the available data.


Step 4: Solve the problem

With the root cause identified, now a solution to address needs to be identified, agreed, resourced and planned. The team tasked with implementing the process improvement, will review the potential options. At the early stage of solution development, a “brainstorm” exercise may be opportune to help ensure an open approach to problem solution.


Step 5: Monitor the results.

The final phase and arguably the most important is to implement a process monitoring program and to ensure review and analysis of results obtained after solution implementation. Via results monitoring, you will:


Confirm that the original problem / objective has been actually solved.

Be able to quantify the results in terms of financial savings, quality improvements, lead time reduction, etc., etc.


It is important that the measurement process to enable an effective monitoring program to be established is considered in the problem “solution” phase. The method of data collection prior to any changes are implemented, needs to be consistent with the method of data collection after change implementation, otherwise, the results could be skewed due to the collection methodology, rather than due to the impact of the process changes.

TQM Tools and Techniques Full Details

Quality Improvement Techniques

Total Quality Management Tools and Techniques …

        • Continuous improvement utilizing Analytical Techniques.
        • Brainstorming
        • 5 why’s analysis
        • Process Flow Diagrams/Flowcharts/Process Mapping
        • Check sheets /Check Lists
        • Run charts
        • Histograms
        • Scatter Diagrams/Scatter Plot
        • Cause and Effect/Fishbone/Ishikawa Diagrams
        • Identifying sources & causes of variation
        • Control/Shewart Charts/DPU Charts
        • Cpk and Ppk Analysis
        • Pareto Analysis
        • Bottleneck Analysis
        • Benchmarking
        • FMEA
        • FTA
        • HAZOP
        • SIPOC
        • Etc. Etc.
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