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What Is Process Improvement?

Process improvement means making things better, not just responding to events and crises. It is a way of looking at how we can do our work faster, smarter, or simpler in a way that ensures quality for our customer and us, now and in the future.

When we engage in quality assurance and process improvement, we seek to learn what causes things to happen in a process and to use this knowledge to reduce variation, remove activities that contribute no value to the product or service produced, and improve customer satisfaction.

A team examines all of the factors affecting the process: materials used in the process, the methods, machines, tools, and resources used to transform the materials into a product or service, and the people who perform the work.

The focus is on improving a process over the long term, not just patching up procedures and work routines as problems occur.

What Is a Process?

A process is no more than the steps and decisions involved in the way work is accomplished. Everything we do in our lives involves processes and lots of them. Here are some examples:

. . . and the list goes on.

Who Owns Processes?

Everyone has a stake in one or more processes. Groups of individuals usually share in--and "own"--the activities which make up a process. But the one individual who is ultimately responsible and accountable for the proper working of the process is known as the "process owner." He or she is the immediate supervisor or leader who has control over the entire process from beginning to end.