Operational improvement involves step-by-step methodical analysis of operations in any organization, profit-oriented or not. Most organizations can increase productivity through incremental improvements in the steps required to fulfill the organization's mission.
To be more concrete, take the example of a project that I have been working on for the past year and a half or so: the implementation of a combined electronic medical records (EMR) and practice management (PM) system for a 30-provider primary care medical practice in Chester County PA.
The spark that caused the physician/owners of the practice to consider implementing an EMR system was a CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) funded project, administered by a Pennsylvania organization, that sought to encourage physician practices to investigate and implement EMR systems. The organization hired by CMS did not practically do anything aside from provide the spark.Long story short is that in the process of implementing the software, the practice has had to address the impact on work processes engendered by the system. Issues such as how telephone calls are answered, how and who records messages from patients, how prescriptions are issued and many others all are being analyzed to determine which can be eliminated to save staff time and therefore expense.
Below are the links to the entry forms for entering data for a particular company or division within a company to evaluate the company's adherence to so-called "best practices" of management. Statistical analysis can be done by analyzing data in the database. Note that you must have a username and password to sign in. You can e-mail me to obtain those.
Abbreviated versions of this can be tailored to the needs of a particular company and projects.
Here is a good explanation of what supply chain management entails.