The field of corporate management is dynamic and reflects the responsive nature of the business. Those companies which fail to commit to the idea of constant improvement are bound to find themselves at a disadvantage. Today’s ever-changing economic environment requires organizations to constantly deliver innovative responses through the optimization of business operations and the implementation of new, more efficient business practices (Ates and Bititci, 2011, p. 5601).
People play a central role in the success of process improvement (Sanchez and Blanco, 2014, p. 13). The change of business processes and management styles necessitates operations management professionals to have a high level of readiness to change to properly manage the change process. This paper seeks to address the issue of change, and the impact on has in improving the efficiency of internal processes. In particular, the researcher focuses on change management and the impact of continuous business improvement on business development.
The Scope and Impact of Process Improvement
There is no denying that continuous improvement in business settings is what brings companies success (Faint, 2011, p. 37). Deming (2000) was one of the pioneers of the concept of constant improvement. The first of the principles of his economic theory highlighted the need for businesses never to stop improving the quality of products or services to stay competitive. The continuous effort towards enhancing the quality of the product or service will allow the company to stay ahead of the competition and therefore, stay in business as long as the improvement is made.
Business process improvement is a concept that can be described as a “systematic approach to help organizations to archive significant changes in the way they do business” (Forster, 2006, p. 4). A business process can be defined as an established pattern of activities followed to produce a certain outcome (Forster, 2006, p. 4).
Depending on the degree of process improvement, its scope may vary, and it may have a different impact on business performance. For instance, a company may consider improving its business processes to reduce waste. Such process improvement will have a significant impact on the company’s operational performance: the costs of operation will decrease, and it will be possible to allocate more time and resources for other purposes (Filho and Uzsoy, 2014). A real-life example of such process improvement is the implementation of a queue management system by a British grocery retailer Tesco. Tesco implemented an intelligent solution to reduce customer wait time and minimize waste. This solution is a queue management system coupled with infrared sensors for customer counting developed by Irisys (Success stories: Tesco, 2016). This system adjusts the number of open checkout stands based on historical data and the number of customers entering the store. Such a system allowed the company to improve the checkout process by reducing customer wait time and improve its overall pre-tax profits by 10% (Success stories: Tesco, 2016).
The impact of process improvement goes beyond the profitability of a company and has a positive effect on the economy as a whole. As Ates and Bititci (2011) note, process improvement allows the companies to acquire resilience and remain sustainable in the light of economic uncertainty. As such, process improvement of individual SMEs is vital for the growth of the economy as a whole (Ates and Bititci, 2011, p. 5603).
Readiness for Continuous Process Improvement
Readiness for change can be defined as a resolve to actively participate in facilitating change (Weiner, 2009). Establishing and sustaining continuous process improvement requires constant changes in organizational processes to improve organizational performance. Holt and Vardaman (2013) emphasize that the stakeholders should be individually, as well as collectively, ready, motivated, and capable of implementing the change.
Change management has two dimensions: organizational and people dimensions (Ates and Bititci, 2011, p. 5601). Operations management professional role implies facilitating change by establishing such an organizational culture that helps facilitate change and actively encourages stakeholders’ participation. As an operations management professional, I will commit to business development through process improvement. I recognize the necessity of constant process improvement to create and sustain value.
Process improvement can be achieved by establishing such an organizational culture that will drive change proactively and foster information sharing (Kumar and Schmitz, 2011, p. 251). It is important to allow maximum participation of all of the stakeholders and establish cross-functional communication to integrate continuous process improvement into all aspects of the company’s operations. Such a goal can be achieved by aligning the corporate messages at strategic, managerial, and functional levels, and implementing cross-functional monitoring to ensure constant process improvement. For example, different departments, such as production and marketing, can perform their assigned function, but information flow should be established to ensure that process improvement is integrated into both sales and marketing operations.
Change is a major component of today’s business environments. Nowadays, economic uncertainty requires businesses to be committed to process improvement to respond to market changes. Operations management professionals play an important role in facilitating change by establishing an efficient strategy and encouraging the active participation of all of the stakeholders in the process of change. Developing readiness for change is essential for creating a sustainable business.
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Deming, W. (2000) Out of the crisis. Cambridge: MIT Press.
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Holt, D.T. and Vardaman, J.M. (2013) ‘Toward a comprehensive understanding of readiness for change: the case for an expanded conceptualization’, Journal of Change Management, 13(1), pp. 9–18.
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