Work can be speeded up by analysing the steps in the whole process (or procedure), especially when the work crosses departmental boundaries. Finding the longest sequence of tasks will reveal the critical path, which can then be subject to modification and refinement.

In professional services, such as any healthcare provider, competent work will only be achieved by trained people who are adequately motivated; given the appropriate resources, correct information and materials; and using reliable, capable equipment.

One of the most powerful methods in any improvement programme is to use process mapping to identify the processes relevant to your work, to analyse the steps in each process and to identify the inputs and the outputs and from those, the internal customers and suppliers.

After that, unnecessary steps can be removed, stages can be speeded up and causes of errors identified and eliminated.

The ‘Chain of Quality’ concept gives rise to the terms ‘internal supplier’ and ‘internal customer’. The internal customer is like all customers and wants to be ‘satisfied’ with the input given to them and if dissatisfied should make an internal customer complaint to their internal supplier.

Identifying the critical path is the technique used to identify the process path that takes the longest time and is the ‘bottleneck’ or rate-determining path in the process.

Having created a process map, if the problem being addressed is one of making it faster then the activities in the process must be looked at in great detail. Your aim as a process improver is to break down all of the activities into their component parts in such a way that if you were to employ as many people as possible to work simultaneously, they could each be working on all the component parts of every activity.