How do I put together a Business Process Improvement Plan?

Preliminary Work

Up to this point you have done a lot of great leg work. You have done several side-by-sides, you have mapped out the processes, you have gathered data, you have identified opportunities, you had identified potential solutions, and you even have some cost estimates for those solutions. Now, you are ready to package all of the work you have done and make a case to get the appropriate approval for you to move forward. You know your stuff, you know every angle of every detail that there is related to this project. However, the crossroad you are at right now is you are unsure how to put your process improvement plan together or what to even include in it, it seems a little overwhelming.

My Approach

Over the span of my career, I have created and delivered over a hundred process improvement plans and have refined my approach over the years. I have learned from my mistakes and have landed on a particular structure that I now use every time, I am going to share that with you, to save you from that heartache.

The process improvement plan structure that I utilized has 7 parts that compose the main portion of the document and I supplement that with 5 appendix-type documents.

Main Portion

The main portion are the high-level type documents that are usually what is requested by the appropriate leaders or decision-makers. During the meeting when you will be providing your Business Process Improvement Plan to them, you may not go over all of the documents. However, the primary purpose & benefit is that in the process of you creating your plan, you will think through a lot of things that you possibly did not think through before as you were performing your preliminary work. Your business process improvement plan will essentially become your execution plan and can also serve as the strategy plan for this specific project.

If you follow the steps that I will outline, you will cover pretty much everything that you need to think through as you provide this to the right leaders.

Document #1 – Methodology

This is the document where you develop credibility for yourself and your project in general. You do not want to come off as someone who sat in a room by herself for a few days and put together this plan. This does not carry credibility, in your ‘Methodology’ document you want to discuss ‘the process’ that got you to this point. You should cover at a high level what you did, which will likely include: side by sides you did (include the departments/area), data you analyzed, discuss any mapping of processes you did, and then cover the other work you likely did such as perform problem solving, identification of errors, and any other departments outside of yours you worked with that helped you land you to where you are now.

Document #2 – Executive Summary

This document is what it sounds like, it a summary of all of main points of your work in a concise manner for executives to look at. I would push for 1 page for this document and nothing more. In your executive summary, you should include a short description of what your project is trying to solve for, 2-3 major opportunities you identified, risks you identified, and what your big selling point is in terms of benefits and/or business case. In a large portion of the meetings I had when delivering my process improvement plan, we didn’t make it past the Executive Summary, I believe the size of the plan itself was intimidating and they didn’t want to invest too much time at that point. They would prefer to review those details on their own time, plan for this and don’t be discouraged if you don’t move past this. Remember, you are the main beneficiary of this plan and if needed you have it there available.

Document #3 – Big Blocks

This is where you cover 3-5 main buckets of opportunities or solutions. Essentially, what you are doing is consolidating your detailed opportunities/solutions into an easy to chew format. Take some time to think about what those categories should be and ensure it makes sense.

Document #4 – Timeline

This is the document which you should plan extra carefully. In this document, you should overview starts and ends dates of various sub-project efforts. In addition, take into consideration delay, vacation times, holidays, resource availability, and take your best shot at making it accurate. I am not a proponent of putting a buffer or slack in there for ‘just in case’. I would prefer you aim for your best estimate and then work as hard as you can to delivery. It is good discipline and you may miss not getting approval if your goals are low. Advice in general, don’t every aim low.

Example of Detailed Timeline

Document #5 – Resources Needed

As you are planning, think through what type of people will you need, who specifically will you need, and what percentage of those people’s time will you need. State the role that person will play in your effort. In addition, call out any other specific resources you will need such as equipment, access to certain information, money, or space/room. I would not be shy when stating the resources you need, if you need something to be successful and you can make a valid case, then ask for it. It will be much more difficult to ask for it later.

Document #6 – Risk Planning

A great process improvement leader should also have the ability to sniff out any risks that could impact the success of the project. Don’t be shy when identifying risks, risks are not a sign of weakness but rather your ability to forecast them is a sign of leadership. What you should accompany those risks with, is how you plan on mitigating those risks. By mitigation plan, I mean state how you will prevent that risk from happening or if unpreventable, what will be your response when it does happen. Think things through in advance.

Document #7 – Business Case & Benefits

Your well-thought out business case and benefits, is your golden nugget. This is what the decision-makers want and what they will likely use in the end to make their decision. In addition, this is a way of you ‘calling your shot’ in advance. As you improve, your ability to forecast benefits will improve.

Appendix Section

These documents are the type that have a lot more detail and you cover much more here. You will think through some specific items for these appendix items. These is the ‘meaty’ part of your process improvement plan.

Appendix #1 – Supporting Data

This is where you can begin to get a little loose in lieu of being succinct. Provide all of the pertinent data, charts, and tables relevant to your main point or main case. Don’t be worried about length at this point, you will observe that some leaders love this stuff whereas some others have no interest in it. My advice, have it ready and remember the act of you preparing this should help you in your own personal decision-making.

Bring Data

Appendix #2 – Communication Plan

This is a well-thought out plan on how often you will be providing updates and to whom, any check in meetings, approval sessions, any recurring meetings, etc. In the communication plan, ensure to include what the item is, who will own the delivery of that item, the frequency, and what form that communication will come in (email, meeting, call, document, etc.).

Appendix #3 – Double-Click Details

This is a double-click of the big blocks that you presented earlier under the 3rd document of the main portion. This is where you specify what all of the opportunities are, any relevant information to that, and then what propose solutions you have already thought through. Be thorough here.

Example of specific causes of problems in Pareto format

Appendix #4 – Daily Routine

This may be difficult to do, but I highly suggest you go down to the detail of thinking through of what your daily routine and the daily routine of the process improvement team will look like through the duration of the process improvement project. If you will only be dedicating 2 hours a day, then indicate this and specify what you will be doing with those 2 hours. Even plan out, if you will have 4 hours of free-work time booked then indicate this in your daily routine. In the act of creating this daily routine, you may realize that either you do not have time to be doing certain things or you may learn you have much more free time than you thought. You can take action or made decisions as you produce this document.

Appendix #5 – Process Flows

This should not turn into additional work, simply place the process flows that you already created and have it available to reference if needed. It likely already served its purpose for you by this point but you can have it there to refresh your or the team’s memory.

The key point to remember is that the act of you putting this together is the most valuable part of the exercise and then having a physical deliverable is just a cherry on top.

Quick Questions

  • What are your thoughts?

  • Are there any documents that you suggest to be included?

  • Have you had experience putting together plans with similar content?

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