Business Process Improvement: Empirical Assessment and Extensions


Management and Entrepreneurship

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to survey and analyze current process improvement (PI) approaches, their empirical results reported in the literature, and develop accordingly a conceptual framework and implementation guidelines.

Design/methodology/approach – A literature review of the popular business database to search for case studies and empirical research on PI methods was conducted. The empirical evidence on success and failure factors were inferred and tabulated. Based on synthesis of the lessons learned from this empirical evidence along with concepts drawn from economics, and operations management, a conceptual framework is developed.

Findings – It was found that the framework would serve as a diagnostic tool for identification of, and recovering from root causes of problems and inefficiencies faced in business environments. The framework proposed synthesizes and extends earlier PI tools and basic approaches used for mitigating disruptions faced in operations practice. The framework design consists of three main phases: Specify; Analyze; and Monitor closely. Accordingly, it is denoted by SAM.

Practical implications – Decision makers can be altered to both the success factors and causes of failure of different PI approaches, and a framework is provided along with implementation guidelines that help assure practical effectiveness of PI efforts. The guidelines provided for practicing managers comprise two categories: specific; tool-based, and general; system-based.

Originality/value – The contribution of this paper is two fold: first, empirical evidence on the drivers of success and failure of four main PI approaches, were synthesized. These include: six sigma, benchmarking, reengineering and process mapping. Second, based on this empirical evidence, a conceptual framework that guides both thechoice and implementation of business process improvement programs is developed. The proposed framework and its implementation guidelines help assure actual effectiveness of PI practice.