What is Continuous Process Improvement (CPI)?
Continuous process improvement is recognized today as one of the most powerful components in quality management, which businesses are adopting to the greatest extent possible because it has such a powerful and direct bearing on their long-term success. The 'process' part of continuous process improvement refers to any set of steps used to accomplish a pre-defined purpose, or to generate a product or service. Continuous process improvement therefore, relates to an ongoing effort by any company to assess and improve upon all those steps which are part of the procedure for creating products or services marketed by the company.
Making CPI part of the business culture
The most important element needed to build CPI into the culture at a workplace, and establishing it as an ongoing concern, is to always focus on the customer's requirements. As a fundamental rule of business, this notion will never change, so efforts in this area will always be on the mark. One great way to accomplish this is by taking to heart customer feedback, and incorporating it into company processes.
In each individual department of a business, performance is often measured by key performance indicators (KPIs), which monitor the real results of processes. The processes being measured by KPIs are generally the same processes that should be evaluated and improved upon in continuous process improvement. CPI ensures that appropriate attention will be paid to making improvements to those processes that promote business success.
It is very important to instill the concept of learning and improvement in every member of the workplace, because it generates energy and excitement about the discovery of new things that promote process improvement. Establishing a culture of continuous process improvement is closely associated with generating the kind of enthusiasm and energy that result from learning new things and making things better. This is a point worth remembering – managers interested in promoting CPI should not focus so much on controlling activities of individuals and departments, but on generating the kind of energy that surrounds learning new and better methods.
Using CPI in Human Resources
The Human Resources department is ideally positioned to further the cause of continuous process improvement. Some of the traditional roles of the HR department include providing HR services to the company, complying with personnel regulations, and enhancing overall company performance. When CPI is applied to these core functions of the department, several new functions become possible to help guide the CPI culture change.
Just like all other departments in an organization, HR can improve on its own processes with the tools and methodologies provided by CPI. HR can also take on the responsibility of developing CPI skills for company employees by supporting improvement efforts, striving for a balance between efficiency and compliance, and by becoming enablers and facilitators of culture change throughout the company.
HR can assist management with the monitoring and nurturing of this culture change, and help to create an environment which makes it easy for staff to implement CPI principles. Going a step further, HR can also integrate CPI concepts into the hiring of new employees, as well as their orientation. Performance management might be another area that HR can influence heavily to bring about culture change, and along those same lines, adapting the system of rewards and other ways of recognizing employees for good performance.
In short, HR can act as the champion for CPI culture change in an organization by providing needed tools and resources, coordinating training, and facilitating cross-functional communication. HR can also influence managers and supervisors to focus on customer requirements and building customer-centric value and improvement into processes. Finally, HR can include ideas and processes in its own plans which are synchronized with the company's operational and strategic plans for the future, and which feature CPI methodology.
Using CPI in the Finance department
The Financial department of any company has a tremendous opportunity to make the overall business more successful and more profitable by adopting continuous process improvement principles as part of its everyday approach. Traditionally, the role of the Finance department has centered around working with management to ensure that company resources are efficiently acquired, maintained, and deployed in the company's best interests.
The pressures of today's business world are forcing Finance personnel to find ways to reduce the cost of basic business transactions, while at the same time improving their own business practices. Faced with the need to do more with less, Finance personnel can find creative new ways to use technology and process improvement to reduce or eliminate waste, thereby freeing up critical financial resources to better support strategic and tactical goals of the company.
Another area where the Financial department has been charged with process improvement is in the timeliness and relevance of information it provides management to make more accurate and better-informed decisions. Thus, adding value to a revamped Financial process means re-designing and re-engineering time-honored Financial methods.
Redesigning the Finance function within an organization to incorporate continuous process improvement centers on transaction processing, control and risk management, and decision-support. Transaction processing includes all traditional accounting functions such as receivables and payables, tax accounting, payroll, and reporting to management. Control and risk management involves budgeting, internal audits, and cash management,. Decision-support primarily involves strategic planning and cost analysis, although other related areas are sometimes included.
Using CPI in Marketing
There are several ways to make use of CPI in marketing, and of incorporating CPI methodologies to achieve an ongoing refinement of marketing initiatives. Some of some of the most obvious ways include increasing the accuracy of targeting customers, improving the quality of products or services being offered, increasing customer satisfaction, and by providing higher quality leads to the sales force.
Better quality leads will naturally result from constant refinement of the Marketing database, and this can be achieved by regularly adding information from sales force feedback, or by including responses from recent marketing campaigns. The Marketing department should be working with the product development team in the area of CPI so that existing products can be enhanced and new ones can be developed, all of which should have the underlying goal of meeting the changing requirements of customers. This kind of approach is critical to making Marketing breakthroughs and sometimes penetrating brand new markets.
Another area where Marketing can make a huge contribution to company success is in achieving high levels of customer satisfaction. Since satisfied customers develop loyalty to a company, it's important for Marketing to reach out to customers via surveys and other methods that poll their experiences with the products or services, and analyze these results to find strengths and weaknesses.
CPI can be applied in the form of training programs which address weaknesses in customer satisfaction, or by modifying processes and measuring improvements in customer satisfaction. To improve the quality of customers targeted by its campaigns, the Marketing department should make advantageous use of modern technology to gather information on customers visiting the company website.
Search engine optimization, analytics, and other information-gathering software available to Marketing personnel can help focus the marketing message on those individuals which are statistically most likely to purchase. This in turn, helps to achieve one of the primary goals of CPI, which is a refinement of process and corresponding reduction of waste.