Process improvement is a responsibility of all employees, not only management

Phillip Turner

It can be a struggle without a proper process improvement methodology at your company to convince others to contribute to process improvement mid-project. The reason for resistance may be that others are waiting on you to do it! I don’t mean they are lazy, salary suckers – though these types exist – this article is not about them. I mean often workers look to management to implement process improvements, because they are leaders and that is their job, right?


The assumption of some employees is that the boss knows best and will eventually get around to

1) discovering obvious issues and

2) implementing the best change to fix it.

I don’t understand that mentality, or want to be a part of it. Management is not doing every job, every day. It may look like they roll up their sleeves and do what everyone else does, but that is not the case. If I spend 10% of my day doing what another employee spends 100% of their day, then they will be much more likely to discover the opportunity for improvement. Sure, I will spot some, but then what do I do?

First, I ensure there is an inefficiency. Most likely there is one, because nothing is perfect. Second, I formally survey the employees that live with this process every day. If someone knows the best way to do something, it is them, not me. As a leader it is my responsibility to improve processes when I knowingly have a legit opportunity for improvement. In fact, all employees have that responsibility, not just management.

Shame on companies that do not encourage or require employees to discover and think about ways to improve the processes they must work through every day. Then shame on managers that do not encourage or require their subordinates to discover or think about ways to improve process, even if the company does not require it. Lastly, shame on any employee that does not want or try to improve processes, even if their company and management does not require it.

A company-wide methodology for process improvements may be best. I think of it as a process to improve processes. Of course, without a dedicated employee to improve the methodology as needed, it may be better to ensure that some sort of formal way to discover and implement change is deeply engrained in your company. Methodology or a Word doc of instructions, choose whatever is best for your company, department, or project. Set expectations that the people affected by the process will need to contribute to the improvement in some way.

Lastly, and this is most often not understood, if a process does not need improved, then do not change it! Management – it is your job to determine when something is not worth the time to improve. Ideally, you have a lot of ideas for improvement in the backlog, and you prioritize them based on return on investment.

Remember, if you have no backlog of process improvement ideas for your company, department, or project from the employees that do all the task oriented work, then there is something wrong. Most likely it is that employees do not know that process improvement is everyone’s responsibility. Now, go and improve.

Google some methodologies or checklists or whatever you like to get started.

What do you do to improve processes?

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