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Process Improvement in Small Businesses?

Process improvement tools such as Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma have been developed by large companies for large companies. 82% of the Fortune 100 companies use Six Sigma, and over half of the Fortune 500 companies embrace some form of process improvement.

But can these principles be applied to their smaller business counter parts as well?

Well, for the small business owners, Process Improvement enthusiasts, or those of you just wondering, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Whether you are in a small company, a large company or even something in between, there is always room for improvement and always a way to do things better.

One reason is because a lot of the tools in process improvement are universally applicable. For example, Lean and Six Sigma, perhaps the most popular process improvement methodologies work to reduce the various kinds of waste, while simultaneously improving the quality of the service(s) or product(s) a company offers.

For example, one tool known as Root Cause Analysis seeks to find the cause of problems that a company may be having. That problem can be something very simple or very complex. But the basic approach and technique is the same across the board, regardless of the size of the company implementing it. Seeking to find what is being done incorrectly, what the cause(s) may be, and find a way fix it; Such an approach is not exclusive to only big businesses, but to businesses of all sizes.

Why else can process improvement be effective in a smaller business environment? Because most businesses despite size, have certain things in common. There are budgets, employees and products/ services produced. So Improving bottom line, reducing cycle times, improving quality to the customer, etc. is universally applicable.

Whether you’re a small start up working with a 300 dollar monthly budget, or a Fortune 500 company working with a multi million-dollar monthly budget, you want to use your money as effectively as possible. There’s also the fact that your company at some level has customers and often times stakeholders they’re seeking to please.

Well now that we’ve established that process improvement can be applied to businesses of virtually any size, what’s the difference between using them in small business and big businesses? One potential stumbling block to the smaller business looking to implement process improvement, is taking on too much change, too quickly. In a smaller company it can be over whelming to the employees to be bombarded with all kinds of changes all at once. For the ambitious, small business owner looking to implement change caution should be taken to implement small changes, over the course of a reasonable amount of time.

Yet another key difference in process improvement in a smaller company is resources allocated to change and process improvement. It can be harder to get the ball rolling in smaller companies for various reasons, such as management buy in, limited funding, etc.

However, while it may at times be a little harder to implement changes in a smaller company, it is certainly feasible and when done correctly the rewards can be worthwhile. No matter the size of the business, there is always room for some form of process improvement.

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