Making Process Improvement Work

Delivery: 1 or 2-day workshop, onsite coaching, or via phone / web

[Based on our book, Making Process Improvement Work – A Concise Action Guide for Software Managers and Practitioners, and Making Process Improvement Work for Service Organizations.]

Process improvement too often reflects a significant disconnect between theory and practice. This workshop bridges the gap offering a straightforward, systematic approach to planning, implementing, and monitoring a process improvement program. Participants will be able to apply the workshop’s practical ideas immediately to real-life challenges.

With examples based on our extensive experience, this workshop shows how to define goals that directly address the needs of your organization, use improvement models appropriately, and devise a pragmatic action plan. In addition, it reveals valuable strategies for deploying organizational change, and delineates essential metrics for tracking your progress. Class materials provide examples of an action plan, a risk management plan, and a mini-assessment process.


  • Senior managers: If you are the director of a division, you will understand how your group can systematically improve and tie those improvements directly to your business goals.
  • Project or program managers: If you are a project or program manager tasked with developing a specific product, use the workshop to plan, deploy, and track improvements within your team.
  • Process improvement coaches: If you are an internal process improvement consultant, quality professional, or team member, you will learn techniques to coach your team through its improvement journey.

Learning objectives
Throughout the workshop we guide you in how to achieve better organizational results. You will understand the critical steps needed to implement lasting and worthwhile change. The workshop will explain how to:

  • Scope and develop an improvement plan
  • Identify and prioritize risks and mitigate anticipated difficulties
  • Derive metrics that accurately measure progress toward business goals
  • Sell your improvement program in-house
  • Initially target practitioners and teams most open to new approaches and techniques
  • Stay focused on goals and problems
  • Align the actions of managers and practitioners
  • Delay major policy documents and edicts until solutions have been practiced and tested
  • Use existing resources to speed deployment
  • Incorporate improvement models, such as CMMI, PMBOK and ISO9001 into your improvement program

Developing a Plan
On day one, you will develop an improvement action plan based on the business goals and problems of your organization. This approach addresses the frustration that many people experience when improvement programs do not relate to the project work being done. You will learn about:

  • Setting compelling goals for your improvement program
  • Directing all improvement towards achieving business goals and solving the organization’s problems
  • Developing an action plan based on the defined goals and problems
  • Using an improvement model or standard to address goals and problems
  • Deriving metrics to track progress against goals
  • Identifying potential future problems (risks) with the action plan and mitigating the highest priority risks

Implementing the Plan
On day two, we describe techniques for deploying new practices across the organization. These techniques address the problems of resistance, unwieldy solutions, and slow deployment. The central themes in this section are:

  • Applying selling strategies to deploy new practices
  • Increasing the speed of deployment
  • Reducing the risk of failure
  • Delaying policy document creation and edicts
  • Using existing resources to increase the speed of deployment

Checking Progress
On day two, we also present techniques for checking the progress of your improvement program and how you take corrective actions based on what you learn. Checking progress is an essential activity to provide the organization with feedback when pursuing business goals and solving problems. The resulting data allows for early problem detection, early correction, and improved visibility to management on improvement progress. In this section you’ll explore methods for:

  • Using metrics to track progress based on defined goals
  • Determining corrective actions needed to get the improvement program back on track
  • Clarifying lessons learned and actions needed to make future executions of the improvement cycle more effective

Using Improvement Models and Standards
Several improvement models and standards exist that can save you much time, such as the CMMI Institute’s Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), PMBOK, ITIL, and ISO9001. These documents incorporate lessons learned from numerous people worldwide who have studied and implemented improvements. If you use them wisely, you can significantly improve your success rate. If you use them academically, you can waste much time. In this workshop, we show how to integrate these resources with your improvement program.

The examples in the workshop include the CMMI framework. If you are using another model or standard, we will help you integrate it into your improvement plan. If you are not using any model or standard, the techniques will help you develop your own improvement actions to address your organization’s issues.

Workshop Agenda

Agenda Details

1. Developing a Plan

  • Scope the Improvement
  • Develop an Action Plan
  • Determine Risks and Plan to Mitigate
  • Exercise

2. Implementing the Plan

  • Sell Solutions Based on Needs
  • Work with the Willing and Needy First
  • Keep Focused on the Goals and Problems
  • Align the Behaviors of Managers and Practitioners
  • Exercise

3. Checking Progress

  • Are We Making Progress on the Goals?
  • Are We Making Progress on Our Improvement Plan?
  • Are We Making Progress on the Improvement Framework?
  • What Lessons Have We Learned So Far?
  • Exercise

Additional Materials

  • Mapping Goals and Problems to a standard, e.g., CMMI, PMBOK, ISO9001
  • Action Plan Example
  • Risk Management Plan Example
  • Mini-Assessment Process
  • References