This is the first in a series of articles covering the concepts involved in business improvement for solopreneurs and those running lifestyle or small businesses. The aim is to build up a comprehensive picture of how continual improvement should fit into the lifecycle of all businesses and the benefits that taking a consistent approach to improving different aspects of your business can bring.
The Four Step Improvement Process
At its simplest improving an aspect of your business involves four steps:
- Decide what you want to improve
- Design the improvement activity
- Perform the necessary work
- Determine if the improvement was successful
Later articles in this series will discuss how these four steps fit into the wider aspects of your business but for now we will focus on the basics of planning and implementing improvements.
Step 1 – Decide what you want to improve
This involves looking at areas of your business that are not working so well or are causing you issues. There are many techniques to help identify opportunities for improvement including:
- Reviewing customer feedback
- Analysing data, e.g. website statistics
Step 2 – Design the improvement activity
Once you have decided which improvement you wish to implement then you need to identify what work will need to be done to achieve the upgrade or enhancement you are aiming for.
This step encourages taking a consistent approach to identifying the challenge, setting goals for the activity, predicting the results and deciding how you will measure if you were successful.
Step 3 – Perform the necessary work
This should be a case of following the plan you put together in step 2 to implement the improvement. Taking small steps in a controlled manner will increase the likelihood of success.
Step 4 – Determine if the improvement was successful
Now study the results, reviewing the goals and measures you set in step 2, to decide whether the improvement work achieved what you were expecting.
What to do next?
Now that this activity has been completed, go back to step 1 and identify another improvement that you can implement. If you make this process a continuous part of running your business, you should start to see incremental development and improvement within your business.
For the scientific-minded of you the approach described here is a simple view of the Plan-Do-Study-Act (or Plan-Do-Check-Act) Cycle, also known as the Deming Cycle. We will return to this concept in future articles in this series.