RMI Tip Archives

July, 2008 -

The key to getting started with process improvement in your job is…… to set a process achievement plan. At the management level, create an objective goal for each of your direct reports to improve one process per month (or quarter).

If you are a proven self-starter and want to make big points with management, (or you personally enjoy improving processes) establish your own achievement plan. Set aside 1 day each month at a time when you are the least busy and follow these simple steps.

  1. Make a list of processes (or download the Process Improvement Matrix document) that need improvement, or speak to other people that are upstream or downstream to your processes and get their input.
  2. Prioritize the list. The best way to kick off this sort of initiative is to prioritize a few “quick wins.” Get a few process “wins” under your belt before you attempt to make more substantial improvements.
  3. Once you have prioritized the list, identify the key people you will need to assist you and schedule:
    1. Meetings (keep them short – less than 20 minutes) Always schedule ahead for process improvement projects; they are usually not considered a priority (revenue-generating) to others, making it easy for people to say “I don’t have the time.” By limiting the amount of time for each meeting and including people in your successes, it will become easier to sign people up for process improvement projects.
    2. Schedule conference rooms in advance; there are too many distractions in a personal office or cubicle.
    3. Schedule follow-up meetings (and make them short!)
  4. Repeat this list each month.
  5. Attend a basic BPM and/or Process Modeling training course. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn about process improvement in a couple of days…

Key to success: Share the wins! Communicate to management the key people that helped you achieve your process improvement goals.  The more your “wins” are communicated, the more likely they are to continue…


June 2008 -

Establishing a Process Excellence program in a company isn’t as easy as it sounds. The first step is the hardest…

Because process excellence cannot be established or maintained with just a tool (modeling software) or a methodology (six sigma, lean, etc).

Process Excellence is a culture shift, and as all of us who have been part of corporate culture change know – change is as difficult as heading cats..


The question we are most often asked is “where do we start?”

Our reply most often is “it depends.”

The two approaches most often attempted by large companies are to:

  1. Purchase a new modeling software tool
  2. Adopt a new improvement methodology

Process Excellence has to start small to stick. It must begin with a small, but highly efficient and enthusiastic team of people that believe that it will work. Process Improvement must be “sold” in the company – people have to be convinced that an investment in process will make their company better.

Where do you start?  We recommend following these steps in sequence. Don’t begin a new step until you are certain that the prior step is done and dusted.

  1. Create a core team – a group of “early adopters” of process excellence.  Although there are many variants of core team structure, it must contain at a minimum these two components.
    1. Executive sponsorship – a strong willed executive manager that is willing to drive the improvement both downward to the role level and outward to the executive steering team level.
    2. Process experts – just because someone has built hundreds of process models doesn’t mean they understand process. (we call these process “mechanics”). Process experts should possess all (or most) of the skills required to invoke process change. Project Management & facilitation skills are the two most important attributes of a process expert. Modeling skills can be acquired with experience and training.

  2. Prioritize possible process improvement projects - se an XY matrix to identify the most important processes. Probability of success and “quick wins” are the two key variables. One of the most important factors of establishing process excellence is to show that it works, so the quicker you experience “quick wins,” the better.

  3. Establish standards – without standards, everyone will go off in their own direction and the results will not be reusable as processes change.
    1. Modeling Standards – a set of standards that establish continuity in process modeling and documentation.
    2. Methodology Standards – begin with a methodology that is sustainable at both the highest and lowest detailed level. If you start with a methodology such as Rummler (which we believe is the best), then make certain that everyone follows the methodology protocol.

  4. Develop a Process Excellence SOP – create governance procedures to ensure modeling and methodology standards are followed.

  5. Form a Governance committee – establish a group of individuals that meet periodically to evaluate and maintain modeling and methodology standards. The committee must be a cross-functional team of business and technology people.

  6. Use Marketing & Sales as a tool – this is the part of process excellence that is most often neglected and perhaps the most important. This isn’t marketing and sales of your company’s product and services; rather it is an approach to advertising the progress and successes of your process excellence team.

  7. Grow – if you succeed in each of the previous steps, the team will naturally grow.  Management throughout the company will hear about the successes and want some. It is really that simple. This is where the early adopters succeed in convincing the early majority to proceed.

It’s as easy as 1-2-3 (and of course 4 through 7).  For a great process selection xy matrix model tool, email me at MitchelMartin@RM-Improve.com.


May 2008 -

Standardizing modeling “language” is created to ensure powerful and accurate communication with business process models. You must first start by … Identifying and recognizing the tools that have been used in your company to develop these models in the past. Regardless of any new process modeling initiative, chances are that many of your users will not have access to the new software or will perhaps still feel more comfortable using the tools they have been using in the past. Creating a “modeling template” is the best solution.

What should an effective modeling template contain in order to be the most effective? It should start with these three main components.

  1. A standard terminology and definitions document.  Make certain that everyone is calling a process model a process model and a workflow (swimlane) model a workflow model. An activity is an activity and a process is a process. We take this basic terminology for granted, however because we all come from different companies, business environments and have been exposed to different modeling tools, this has to be the starting point for effective business modeling.
  2. A standard objects document – Do you see a lot of business models, all with different representations of activities, arrows, systems, applications and databases? Create a “gallery” of standard objects and ensure that everyone is using the same objects to represent process actions and components.
  3. A standard properties document – it is important to capture all of the information needed for each process model, as every piece of information costs money to acquire.  By capturing all of the information the first time, your models will be complete and you will save a lot of time and resource costs.


Standardization must start with a core group of people, each from a respective area of the business to ensure that the basic objects and models that they ALL need are identified and used. Someone must be assigned to the maintenance and publishing of updates to this document on a regular basis.

One last note about modeling standards.  There are a lot of organizations and groups in the BPM environment promoting their standards for business modeling. In our opinion, they are inefficient and ineffective as every business is different, and the modeling terminology and standards are equally different, as the core begins with the actual terminology and “language” in the company.  These industry standards can provide some guidance, but you will be more successful by forming a group within your company’s BPM community and establish your own standards rather than re-educating the entire company and forcing them to adhere to a “foreign” modeling language.

If your company is new to business modeling and have created many of your models in Microsoft® Visio®, attached is a very simple modeling objects and properties document to get you started. Click on this Modeling Standards Document link to get started.


February 6, 2008
- What good are business process models if they can’t be located when someone needs them? A simple solution is a model log. Integrate the log with your documentation program, so that anyone needing a specific model can find it easily. The simplest way to do this is creating a modeling log as part of your documentation package and easily accessed on the company intranet, SharePoint or documentation library.

The benefits of a modeling log include:

  • The easier business process models can be located, the more often they will be used.
  • External organizations can gain insight into other processes in the organization by reviewing documented process models.
  • Model development time for future state models can be reduced by reusing existing current state models.

A manual model log is the perfect place to begin developing modeling library for your quality management system (QMS). Use this BPM Modeling Log to get started.

January, 2008 - Don't underestimate the power of a good BPM tool - but don't overestimate it either. Without modeling standards backed by a solid methodology you might as well spend your company resources on other things. The problem with businesses implementing a new BPM tool, is that the tool is often expected to bring BPM improvements to the company. Trust me - it won't, regardless of what your BPM software salesman tells you. BPM software is only a tool. It is like being given a football without understanding the game. If you can't throw, catch or execute plays, the football isn't much good is it? The same applies to a BPM Tool. Software training alone isn't enough - two key investments must be made to fully utilize your new BPM tool.

1) You must be trained in BPM methods - without a full understanding of how to improve processes how can you analyze and execute?

2) You have to be patient and give time for the process improvements to work. Often after implementation, a few things have to be "tweaked" to optimize and realize the value of the efforts. Process Improvement must be nurtured and given time to grow.

To get a good idea as to where to start, read the book "Business Process Improvement Workbook" (documentation, Analysis, Design, and Management of Business Process Improvement). Written by H. James Harrington, Erik K.C. Esseling and Harm Van Nimwegen.

December, 2007
- More than 4 hours in a facilitated modeling session is a waste of time. You will get more done in two 2-hour sessions than in an entire 8-hour day. According to studies regarding Kaizen and Brainstorming sessions, attention spans and conversation side-tracking begin in as little as 40 minutes. And forget about the hour after lunch - you might as well schedule a 45-minute lunch, followed by a 45-minute "read your emails and make your phone calls" break. This will allow everyone time for their lunch to settle and get their real work done - you will find that your facilitation team will be a lot more effective this way.

E-mail: info@rm-improve.com

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