Core Principles of Business Process Improvement

Last updated: Oct 22, 2019

The core principles of business process improvement (BPI) are not numbered, etched in stone, and universally accepted as the top 20 or 10 or five BPI commandments. There are, though, countless lists of rules or guidelines deemed most important. Using a sampling of those lists and a Venn diagram concept, we found six core principles of business process improvement.

Coworkers reviewing company financial data together at a desk.

Origin of Our Core Process Improvement Principles

Our effort to identify the number of core principles of business process improvement involved numerous internet searches that yielded a variety of lists of rules/guidelines that define BPI and its supporting methodologies. The only criterion for selecting websites was being toward the top of the Google search stack.

We were looking for what consistently is in play, principles that have currency. What follows are headlines our searches turned up and the principles that appeared under the respective headlines. The language is largely intact, for the sake of comparison, but the entries have been edited for space. Here they are:

20 Principles of Business Process Improvement

These 20 principles of BPI are from Business Analyst Learnings:

  • Confirm the strategic direction of the business initiating BPI.
  • Ensure projected BPI benefits are stated clearly and achievable in the short term.
  • Prepare a business case for the improvement effort.
  • Get management support and approval before implementation.
  • Be clear on benefits BPI will deliver.
  • Leverage technology.
  • Be ready to deal with difficult stakeholders.
  • Stakeholder analysis is key to BPI.
  • The business’s culture must be conducive to change.
  • Solve the right problem.
  • Practice risk management.
  • Ensure improvement is continual.
  • Celebrate quick wins to keep team morale high.
  • Maintain momentum to sustain a sense of urgency among stakeholders.
  • Seek feedback from all involved parties.
  • Processes under scrutiny should be considered for improvement, redesign, or elimination.
  • Adopt an agile approach to requirements elicitation.
  • Get to the root cause of problems, because truly understanding the problems will help avoid repetition.
  • Create a business process center of excellence to facilitate process improvement.
  • Start with a qualitative assessment of processes before delving into quantitative metrics, especially with organizations new to BPI.

Six Guiding Principles for Process Improvement

These six principles are from Beyond B2B:

  • Don’t do process improvement initiatives just for the sake of it.
  • Focus on people and empower anyone, anytime, anywhere to make your business processes the best in the world.
  • Start with the low-hanging fruit.
  • Make your processes look sexy, and spread the news.
  • Keep your processes healthy.
  • Keep it short and simple.

7 Critical Business Process Improvement Strategies to Drive Growth

These strategies, defined by Business First Family as useful principles, are:

  • Use a business process audit to identify what needs to be changed.
  • Define your business process.
  • Once you’ve defined your business process, map it in flow-chart fashion to make it easily presentable and understandable.
  • Once you identify your goals, set benchmarks.
  • Take your customers into account.
  • Develop strategies and set priorities.
  • Monitor and measure continually, and be ready to improvise.

The Five Principles of Lean

Principles of BPI are inseparable from those of the methodologies that facilitate business process improvement. These principles of the Lean methodology are from The Lean Way:

  • Define value in respect to what the customer is willing to pay for. It is paramount to discover the actual or latent needs of the customer.
  • Map the value stream.
  • Create flow. After removing the waste from the value stream, ensure that subsequent value-adding activities flow smoothly.
  • Establish pull.
  • Pursue perfection.

Six Sigma Principles

These are from Graphic Products:

  • Focus on customer requirements.
  • Use extensive measurement and statistical analysis to understand how work gets done and to identify the root cause of problems.
  • Strive to eliminate variation and continually improve your process.
  • Involve people in cross-functional teams.
  • Be thorough and flexible.

5 Lean Six Sigma Principles You Should Adopt Immediately

The Lean Six Sigma methodology may appeal to those who compared Lean and Six Sigma and couldn’t choose. These principles are from Lucidchart:

  • Focus on the customer.
  • Figure out your value stream.
  • Take out the trash.
  • Keep the ball rolling.
  • Create a culture of change and flexibility.

The Core of Kaizen

These are from the Kaizen Institute, which says there are five fundamental principles embedded in every Kaizen tool and behavior:

  • Know your customer.
  • Let it flow.
  • Go to Gemba.
  • Empower people.
  • Be transparent.

The 12 Basic Principles of Agile Project Management

HubSpot offers these principles of Agile, a BPI methodology developed for software producers:

  • Satisfy customers.
  • Don’t be change-averse.
  • Deliver working software as soon as possible.
  • Developers and management must collaborate.
  • Build projects around motivated employees.
  • Face-to-face communication is preferable.
  • Functional products are the measure of success.
  • Agile processes yield sustainable development.
  • Continual attention to technical excellence and good design boost agility.
  • Simplicity is a must.
  • Self-organized teams are the most productive.
  • Inspect and adapt.

Five Principles of Total Quality Management (TQM)

These five principles are from Study.com:

  • Produce quality work the first time.
  • Focus on the customer.
  • Have a strategic approach to improvement.
  • Improve continually.
  • Encourage mutual respect and teamwork.

Our List of 6 Core Values

Our Venn-esque process yielded six circles of principles grouped on the basis of similarities. Some of the principles could easily fit in more than one group, or circle, so feel free to move them around.

The final process was to distill the entries in our six circles into six principles. Here are the six principles we deduced:

 

6. Ensure You Clearly Identify, Resolve the Problem(s)

  • Get to the root cause of problems, because truly understanding the problems will help avoid repetition.
  • Start with a qualitative assessment of processes before delving into quantitative metrics, especially with organizations new to BPI.
  • Solve the right problem.
  • Use extensive measurement and statistical analysis to understand how work gets done and to identify the root cause of problems.

 

5. Engage and Empower Everyone Who Has a Role in the Process

  • Seek feedback from all involved parties.
  • Focus on people and empower anyone, anytime, anywhere to make your business processes the best in the world.
  • Encourage mutual respect and teamwork.
  • Empower people.
  • Celebrate quick wins to keep team morale high.
  • Maintain momentum to sustain a sense of urgency among stakeholders.

 

4. Continually Assess Realities and Results; Be Ready to Adapt Accordingly

  • Monitor and measure continually, and be ready to improvise.
  • Inspect and adapt.
  • Stakeholder analysis is key to BPI.
  • The business’s culture must be conducive to change.
  • Don’t be change-averse.
  • Functional products are the measure of success.
  • Agile processes yield sustainable development.

 

3. Make Customers Your Priority and the Driving Force in Your BPI

  • Take your customers into account.
  • Define value in respect to what the customer is willing to pay for. It is paramount to discover the actual or latent needs of the customer.
  • Focus on customer requirements.
  • Focus on the customer.
  • Know your customer.
  • Satisfy customers.

 

2. Good Communication at All Levels Clears the Way for Good Results

  • Ensure projected BPI benefits are stated clearly and achievable in the short term.
  • Get management support and approval before implementation.
  • Be clear on benefits BPI will deliver.
  • Make your processes look sexy, and spread the news.
  • Developers and management must collaborate.
  • Involve people in cross-functional teams.
  • Create a culture of change and flexibility.
  • Be transparent.
  • Keep the ball rolling.
  • Face-to-face communication is preferable.
  • Once you’ve defined your business process, map it in flow-chart fashion to make it easily presentable and understandable.

 

1. Use the Best People, Tools, Tactics, Information to Craft an Effective BPI Strategy That Fits

  • Prepare a business case for the improvement effort.
  • Develop strategies and set priorities.
  • Have a strategic approach to improvement.
  • Define your business process.
  • Use a business process audit to identify what needs to be changed.
  • Map the value stream.
  • Figure out your value stream.
  • Confirm the strategic direction of the business initiating BPI.
  • Leverage technology.
  • Be ready to deal with difficult stakeholders.
  • Practice risk management.
  • Ensure improvement is continual.
  • Processes under scrutiny should be considered for improvement, redesign, or elimination.
  • Adopt an agile approach to requirements elicitation.
  • Create a business process center of excellence to facilitate process improvement.
  • Don’t do process improvement initiatives just for the sake of it.
  • Start with the low-hanging fruit.
  • Keep your processes healthy.
  • Keep it short and simple.
  • Once you identify your goals, set benchmarks.
  • Create flow. After removing the wastes from the value stream, ensure that subsequent value-adding activities flow smoothly.
  • Establish pull.
  • Pursue perfection.
  • Strive to eliminate variation and continually improve process.
  • Be thorough and flexible.
  • Take out the trash.
  • Let it flow.
  • Go to Gemba.
  • Deliver working software as soon as possible.
  • Build projects around motivated employees.
  • Continual attention to technical excellence and good design boost agility.
  • Simplicity is a must.
  • Self-organized teams are the most productive.
  • Produce quality work the first time.
  • Improve continually.

Four coworkers at a desk having an informal meeting

BPI Is on USF’s Long List of Business Offerings

Professional development through USF’s Office of Corporate Training and Professional Education includes Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification programs.

Among CTPE’s other professional development offerings are human resource management, project management, and test preparation.

Learn more about what the Office of Corporate Training and Professional Education offers:

Learn More