Process Improvement Methodologies

Discover what process improvement methodologies are, why process improvement is important, the types of methodologies you can use in the organization, and different ways to enhance the process improvement methodology used in your organization.

What are Process Improvement Methodologies?

A process improvement methodology is a systematic approach that organizations may use in process improvement. This involves evaluating current processes within the organization to determine where the processes can be improved and how to improve them.

This is an integral part of organizations as it can help streamline process improvement, which is key in enhancing productivity, efficiency, and safety when conducting operations. There are many approaches to process improvement, which is why there are quite a few methodologies from which organizations can choose.

No methodology is better than the other. However, there may be one or two methodologies that could be a better fit for an organization than others.

Why is Process Improvement Important?

Change is an integral part of an organization. Companies and businesses are constantly dealing with change, whether that be due to internal or external factors.

Process improvement aims to guide an organization toward the right path for growth. Aside from that, it also leads to better team engagement, enhancing a workplace’s culture.

That said, process improvement isn’t a one-size-fits-all model. There are numerous approaches or methodologies that organizations use when implementing process improvement strategies, and all have their advantages and disadvantages.

Types of Process Improvement Methodologies

There are quite a few process improvement methodologies that organizations practice to increase efficiency and productivity, implement a cohesive process management strategy, and help them reach their main goals. Each methodology has its own set of perks and drawbacks, which is why it’s important for organizations to choose one with the best chance of helping them meet their goals.

Here’s a rundown of some of the prominent process improvement methodologies used by organizations:

Six Sigma

This methodology traces its roots back to 1986, from a Motorola employee and engineer, Bill Smith. The goal of this approach is to reduce the amount of variation between end products, achieving a more consistent and reliable product in the process.

The Six Sigma method is built on statistical data. Teams are supposed to use statistical data to determine where their organization is lacking and how the processes can be improved. The process aims to produce no more than 3.1 defects for every 1 million production cycles, which can improve customer satisfaction and overall consistency.

Lean Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing is arguably the most popular and well-known approach to process improvement. With the use of different types of lean tools, this approach aims to reduce the amount of waste during production processes, which can cost an organization if allowed to build up.

The approach reduces material waste and wasted time and encourages employees to work in a more streamlined and reliable manner. The entire process was based on Toyota’s manufacturing process and is built on five main principles.

These principles are:

Total Quality Management (TQM)

Total Quality Management or TQM first gained popularity when the US Federal government used the approach in the late 1980s. This methodology is a bit older than Six Sigma and Lean manufacturing but is still very relevant and applicable to modern processes.

In this approach, success is based on customer satisfaction. If the customer is satisfied, then the business is successful in its processes. To do this, organizations must use strategic, systematic approaches to achieving their goals.

It’s also based on ensuring that all employees work towards one common goal. This means keeping open lines of communication and training employees properly from the very start.

And like Lean manufacturing, TQM principles focus on the continuous process improvement of different strategies within the organization.


Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy built on continuous improvement. The whole idea of Kaizen is that we should always be looking to improve something, whether within the organization or in our personal lives.

In the business context, Kaizen’s entire ethos is that if a business is continuously working towards performance improvement, it won’t just achieve its current goals but also the more ambitious goals it may have in the future.

Kaizen is built on three pillars, which are:

  • Muda (waste)
  • Mura (unevenness)
  • Muri (overwork)

When using the Kaizen approach, organizations need to aim to reduce these three pillars. This creates a more productive and sustainable workplace that encourages efficiency and productivity.

5 Whys Analysis

The 5 whys analysis technique involves finding the root cause of different problems. This makes it easier for organizations and teams to tackle the specific issue, making it easier for businesses to achieve their goals.

Basically, this problem-solving method involves asking the question “Why did this happen?” five times. This allows the team to really get to the bottom of why a certain problem exists within the organization and what can be done to improve upon the issue.

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How Do Organizations Implement Process Improvement?

Process improvement doesn’t look the same for all businesses. Each organization has its own approach to process improvement. And even if the approach is based on common process improvement methodologies, it may still take a different form when actually implemented.

With that said, there are a couple of general steps and phases to keep in mind when implementing process improvement methodologies to achieve operational excellence. That way, the team can ensure that they implement the method properly, its easily measurable, while covering all variables in the process

Organizations will typically follow these steps when implementing process improvement:

  • Define This involves determining the problem and clearly defining it. This determines what the organization needs to improve upon.
  • Measure This involves quantifying different aspects of the process to ensure that the team is on the right track.
  • AnalyzeThis means that the team needs to analyze the data and interpret it to ensure that it’s as clear and understandable as possible.
  • Improve This involves actually implementing the measures that the team determined to be effective in managing a specific problem.
  • Continuously Improve The last step of the process is making sure that the improvement strategy is working and also figuring out ways to further improve the processes involved.

What Hinders the Use of Process Improvement Methodologies?

Here are some of the reasons organizations may have a harder time implementing their process improvement methodologies:

  • Employee participation Not all employees are keen on making adjustments to improve processes.
  • Time Some businesses don’t want to go through the long process of identifying areas of improvement and determining possible solutions and fixes.
  • OrganizationImplementing process improvement requires everyone to be on the same page, but it can be hard to organize an entire company or entity, uniting them toward a common goal.
  • Lack of knowledge A lot of the time, employees and whole organizations aren’t knowledgeable on process improvement and its methodologies. This can make it much harder to effectively implement the methodology.

FAQs about Process Improvement Methodologies

Process improvement is the practice of identifying and analyzing different problems or hindrances in the production or business processes of an organization. The practice also involves figuring out and implementing solutions to the identified problems.

The right process improvement methodology largely depends on the organization. Different approaches have their own advantages and use cases, so it’s important for organizations to determine what may work for their own processes.

Process improvement aims to push an organization towards growth. By improving different processes, organizations can improve their production rate, productivity, efficiency, and overall culture.

There are many ways organizations can practice process improvement. This includes improving product quality, upgrading equipment to improve safety and efficiency, or training employees in new techniques in the industry designed to improve business and manufacturing processes.

Leon Altomonte
Article by
Leon Altomonte
Leon Altomonte is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He got into content writing while taking up a language degree and has written copy for various web pages and blogs. Aside from working as a freelance writer, Leon is also a musician who spends most of his free time playing gigs and at the studio.