Standard methodologies and techniques for project management can be utilized with modifications to complete and manage the improvement initiatives as projects. The traditional approach involving planning, implementation and validation can be used to deal with challenges, track the progress and perform quality checks and relevant improvements after intelligent adaptation. The strategy to perform the aforesaid is discussed further. 

What Is an Improvement Initiative?

Besides major projects in each organization, "operational activities" are required to improve internal processes and systems. They are specifically performed for better customer satisfaction, developing new products or services to please the customer and reducing insignificant things leading to disorder. 

Improvement initiative is a great method to improve the business process by decreasing the estimated time in delivering the service and multiple interactions with company personnel, often disliked by customers. It also aims to improve operational and safety procedures. 

What Is the Value of Managing Improvement Initiatives as Projects for the Organization?

Managing the improvement initiative as the project provides a structure to ease the task. The breakdown into individual and workable components eases risk identification, qualitative analysis, quantification and response strategy development. Moreover, responsibility assignment is more efficient, and so is monitoring and reporting the progress. WBS elements help trace the improvement implementation, further facilitating the problem analysis and devising solutions through recommendation and observation followed by verification and validation.

Why Use Project Management Techniques?

The project management technique supplies an organized framework for tracking the improvement procedures and results using WBS (Work Breakdown Structure). The task benefits through idea generation, initiation, planning and implementation. Further, quality analysis is as effective as monitoring and reporting the development of the process. 

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Project Initiation and Planning Methods

The project initiation and planning method comprises numerous steps described in detail. 

Step 1 - Project Phasing

Segregating the task into steps or phasing the project is highly effective in deciding the resources and management. The steps include initiation, planning, implementation, and validation and never end with continuous improvement and monitoring. 

Step 2 - Common Cause Analysis

Common cause analysis or root cause analysis is the base of any improvement initiative. It decides the direction of the project and hence subsequent steps. Experienced professionals acting as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) analyze recent performance compromises, finding out the possible cause and issues. The endeavor, lasting for a week, focuses specifically on operations performance through the duration of the past 6 to 8 months, functioning of management processes and attention. It also points to the organizational procedures, causal analysis and quality control issues, the limit of reviewing, and the status of implementation processes of different programs. The report generated on the above work is further acted upon by the process owners and corporate officials like the senior management team. 

Step 3 - Developing a Mission Statement

The previous step provided the initial point for the next step. Developing a mission statement aids in determining the problem to begin with and the expected result. Then, it lets individuals roll out the strategy and defines the objectives and participating members' roles and responsibilities. 

Step 4 - Planning the Improvement Initiative as a Project

Planning occurs in two steps, the first is to gain approval from the corporate senior management team, and the second is to work out the funding plan. Overlooked by the Project Manager, the plan steps up the schedule, resources and scope for the work by providing the catalog of necessities in control, integration and baseline management. 

Important aspects of the Project Management Plan are defining the scope, implementation strategy, overall project, and WBS. Further, assignment, tracking and reporting through the Gantt bar, finance, backup plan and communication are also included. Each mentioned part should be indicated, with a specific heading indicating the details.

The findings, observations and recommendations from Common Cause Analysis frame the scope of work through WBS. The latter ensures the inclusion of all the activities, and scope decomposition ensures efficient division to obtain results. 

Step 5 - Risk Planning

Risk planning involving identifying, analyzing and rectifying risks is crucial and should involve primary control account managers and stakeholders. It should include risk identification when the Project Management Plan is 90% complete. The action must involve analyzing risk at each objective and providing the responsibility to project team members or stakeholders. 

Qualitative risk analysis must rank and categorize the risks and their effects in writing, followed by devising the strategies through avoiding, transferring, mitigating or accepting the risks. 

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Step 6 - Implementation Techniques and Challenges

Proper implementation techniques smoothen the process and help in solving the challenges. 

Step 7 - Implementation Techniques

The project team, Senior management team and stakeholders should develop the criteria to mark the implementation progress at the beginning of the implementation phase and provide feedback concerning the speedup of the process and improvement of results. The metrics or rank should be tracked to certify the effectiveness of each focus area or control account. Implementation should also focus on the mechanism of customer and stakeholder involvement in the verification process. Another significant point is to trace the implementation back to points of Common Cause Analysis and WBS elements. 

Step 8 - Common Challenges

Some common challenges faced by the project team during the implementation initiative are limited team experience, resource allocation, performance based on the new definition of success and failure and problems in focusing due to a lack of external pressure. Training the team, support from the management, clear and detailed explanation, and keeping competition among teams may help rectify the common challenges. 

Monitoring, Measuring and Reporting Progress

The activity and progress status, based on the project cost, schedule baseline and communication within the project team, aids in acquiring commendable results. Under the project management plan, progress monitoring can be performed daily, weekly and monthly by the project manager, project control engineer, control account manager and work package managers. In addition, sharing the advancements with the senior management team and stakeholders can lend beneficial advice.

Monitoring activities should focus on the projects' status and pay special attention to areas that might delay the overall proceeding. Furthermore, risk management, execution of an improvement plan, metrics development and clear communication with stakeholders are crucial aspects needing emphasis. 

Implementation Effectiveness Verification and Validation

The efficacy of improvement initiatives in terms of continuous improvement can be verified and validated through strict usage of criteria to understand and evaluate the effectiveness of the plan and action at each WBS level. The quality assurance part can perform verification and validation by checking the reliability of actions by evaluating delivered results after the closure of individual control accounts. It can also confirm if the objectives and recommendations of seniors are correctly followed and the status of the improvement plan and results after a certain period. 

Verification and Validation Process

It is important to decide the methodology for verification and validation during the early implementation phase in agreement with stakeholders. In general, the process should take place at three levels, work package closure, adequacy of implementing action and effectiveness. 

Validation Methodology

In correlation with the Work Package Manager and Control Account Manager, interviews, observation and document reviews, combined or any single method, can be used depending upon the requirement. 

Reporting Verification and Validation Progress

Regular and precise report of the verification and validation progress to stakeholders, along with monthly project status reports. The action must clearly emphasize the metrics and the level of verification and validation compared to the maximum number of assigned actions. 

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After completion of mentioned steps, it is the Project manager's responsibility to review each detail concerning effectiveness, success and remaining problems. Furthermore, a team to review is recommended composed of a Subject Matter Expert, other individuals in common cause analysis and functional managers. 

The final report stating the findings must include achievement of objectives, end state and project schedule performance. In addition, the report should further reach the Senior Management Team and stakeholders for feedback and to strengthen the achievements and challenges faced during the implementation phase. 

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