How to start your business improvement journey

Photo credit: Matthew Donaldson,, 9 May 2012.

If you have clicked on this link – which quite obviously, you have –
congratulations! It is great to have you here. You are obviously a doer and someone who is ready to add real value to your organisation through better processes, outcomes and results.

As we explore below, there are four steps you can take right away to kick-start your business improvement journey:

  1. Commit to cultivating a continuous improvement mindset
  2. Start growing your business improvement toolkit
  3. Download your free copy of The Practical Process Workbook
  4. Try writing down one of your processes

Business improvement is important to any organisation, its customers and stakeholders and its staff for any number of reasons. Ultimately, organisations that do not change and look for opportunities to improve – especially when risks and problems and competitors arise – become unsustainable and cannot keep going. On the other hand, organisations that actively promote a culture of continuous improvement and staff empowerment can thrive and capitalise on the enthusiasm and ideas of engaged staff.

To be quite honest, the reasons to improve your organisation are practically endless, but here are the big three:

  1. You end up with less risk, waste, errors, delays and general frustration for staff and customers / stakeholders. This is a pretty big win in itself. By giving people the tools and help to think through what they do, we are giving people permission to identify and improve what they are doing in all sorts of practical ways. And if this means that your staff and stakeholders, funding bodies and (last but not least) customers see better results, then you are likely to see some tangible benefits appearing before your very eyes.
  2.  You have the groundwork set for better results, continuous improvement and growth. You see, if staff morale is up, stakeholders are seeing benefits, funding partners are happy with what you are doing, and customers are receiving value, then there is further potential in many aspects of your organisation. Maybe more customers. Maybe more service offerings. Perhaps an improved culture where staff feel empowered to share new ideas and provide better overall service. And possibly even more funding for other projects and initiatives!
  3.  What you do contributes to the organisation’s goals being achieved rather than working against or independently of them. This is what is dreamt of when an organisation’s strategy is developed but so often the strategy is not brought to life and incorporated within the everyday business activities. By bridging the gap between strategy and day-to-day activities, we see the organisation’s aspirations actually being realised.

Looking at how to start your business improvement journey though, we believe that there are four steps you can take right now, today, that can help you get your trip booked, your bags packed and you seated in first class on the business improvement plane.

STEP 1: Commit to cultivating a continuous improvement mindset

Business improvement is not something that you do once and then forget about.

Well, you probably can, but with time and changes in staff, technology, organisational direction and consumer / stakeholder demands, any wins you once made will eventually be completely eroded. So if you know that the need for business improvement will continue indefinitely, then you might as well commit to always being on the lookout for opportunities to improve. The approach of making little incremental changes over time are less painful, dare I say more fun, more timely and therefore more valuable than undertaking massive organisational improvements once a decade.

So the sooner you can commit to cultivating a continuous improvement mindset the better. Not only will it make it easier to fulfil your job description, but you will generally over time make yourself an indispensable and positive asset to your organisation. And who knows, your enthusiasm and ability to embrace change and opportunities for improvement may rub off on the other people around you!

How do you commit to a continuous improvement mindset? Firstly you embrace the benefits of this new paradigm and then you try to practice it! This means taking the first steps towards:

  • Taking responsibility for the quality of work that you do and that is done within your area of responsibility and sphere of influence.
  • Looking for ways to improve what you yourself are doing.
  • Look for ways that you can leverage other work that is done within your organisation, and conversely, ways that other people in your organisation can leverage the work you are doing.

STEP 2: Start growing your business improvement toolkit

This step is easier than the first one!

As you can see if you look around this site, we are growing a toolkit for all you DIY business improvers out there. If you check out our Business Improvement Toolkit then it gives you a great overview of the resources we have available on this site.

A key tool that you can get here and nowhere else is the Superior Business Analysis Framework. This is a model we’ve developed and refined over recent years and we encourage ANYONE to use it. We have developed this Framework to give people a simple idea of what needs to be thought through for an organisation to function effectively, efficiently and sustainably. Here’s a quick guide to it – you can download it as a PDF too.

STEP 3: Download your free copy of The Practical Process Workbook

Our free ebook, The Practical Process Workbook: A step by step guide to writing down your processes is also available on this site. This resource is written for people in organisations of all sizes, and takes you through five comprehensive steps for capturing a new or existing business process. It includes an example process that you can work along with and some helpful insights into the world of business improvement.

STEP 4: Try writing down your processes

Superior Business Analysis is based on a fairly simple premise – that to improve what you do, you need to think about what you do. That is of course what ‘analysis’ is, considered, logical and structured thinking about a subject with the aim of better understanding it. But unless you and everyone you work with has a photographic memory and an exceptional ability to communicate, you cannot do this ‘thinking’ unless what you do is written down.

Now if you haven’t been in the habit of writing down your processes before, then it can seem quite a daunting task. But it can be a liberating process! By writing down what you know and do, it frees up your brain to look for ways to do it and other tasks better – and gives you a way of delegating it elsewhere if appropriate. In fact, this article here gives you a list of 18 EXCELLENT reasons why you should write down what you do.

And you needn’t worry –  our free ebook that we suggest you download as part of STEP 3, The Practical Process Workbook: A step by step guide to writing down your processes holds your hand and walks you through all the steps of getting what you do down on paper.

We suggest you now pick a process – any process you have some level of responsibility for, although a higher risk, higher value or problematic process is even better – and have a go at working through the workbook.

And once you’ve done that, your business improvement journey is underway!