How do you do something better?
Stop for a moment and consider the last time you wanted to do something better than you had before. What did you do?
If you play tennis, you might have taken lessons or practiced volleying against a backboard. Both of these activities might yield some improvement in your game, but serious tennis players go one step further. To improve your game, you must know what goes into each move you make, practice doing it, and then apply it to get to the ultimate goal—winning the game.
Whether it is tennis, cooking, paying the bills, hiring employees, cleaning the schools, getting children to and from school, or planning a lesson, improving performance requires identifying and understanding how we accomplish and excel in our work.
What is a process?
A process is a planned and repetitive sequence of steps and activities for the delivery of a service or product.
Every process has inputs, something or someone supplies things, and outputs, something or someone receives or benefits from the work. Processes can be simple or exceedingly complex, and some serve as critical processes or functions that make up essential activities required to achieve our mission or goals.
Edwards Deming, who led American business and industry in improving the quality of goods and services and identified key principles for quality management and improvement, noted that over 90% of work problems are not a function of individual people but the processes used by individuals.
According to Dr. Deming, if you see a problem or inefficient result, look first at the processes in place. Many service organizations, including schools, are definitely not manufacturing plants, but as dynamic and complex systems, they contain a myriad of processes.
Since processes involve suppliers and customers of the process, continuous improvement must involve all levels and functions of the organization.
No process ever sits in isolation.
We will not reach high levels of performance in tennis by only hitting the ball against a backboard. Although a tennis player may play the game as an individual, each player has a team that may include a coach, other players, and supporters who collaborate with the player to prepare for outstanding performance.
Likewise, process improvement takes a team.