As an engineer, I spent a lot of time working to improve processes.  The first step to improving a process is always the same-Map it out.

Here are some simple steps to improve almost any process:

1.  Get Together Some Key Stakeholders – Don’t try to improve the process on your own, even thought it is often tempting to do so.  Finding process improvements is just part of the game.  The real benefit comes from implementing the improvements and for that, you will need other stakeholders to buy in.  Plus, having different perspectives on a team will offer better solutions.

2.  Map Out the Process – There is nothing like a good whiteboard for improving a process.  With the stakeholders in the room, start mapping out the process.  Process mapping involves boxes and arrows.  The level of detail you include depends on the process.  Don’t try to improve it yet, just capture how it currently works.

3.  Identify Issues– As a team, start to highlight problem areas.  Where do things not work as well?  Talk about common problems and start creating a list

4.  Prioritize the Issues – Have each stakeholder identify their top 3 issues and give each issue a score (3 points for top issue, 2 points for 2nd choice, 1 point for 3rd choice).  Sort the issues by top score.

5.  Brainstorm Improvements – Starting with the highest priority issues, brainstorm ways to address each issue.  Start to list the potential improvements.

6.  Assign Improvements – Assign each improvement to people and ask them for a due date for accomplishing their next step.  Don’t try to do everything at once.  Focus on just a few improvements at a time, but make sure that the team is committed to making progress on the few improvements.

7.  Track Progress – Circle back!  Reassemble the team regularly to track progress towards the improvements.  Things won’t go the way you expect it to go.  Some improvements may not work.  Update the team on progress, discuss lessons learned, and then determine the next steps to take.  

Improving a process as a team will not only give you a better process, it will build teamwork and engagement.