Consistent Business Process Improvement
As leaders, we know that part of staying competitive is making sure our strategies meet or exceed customer’s needs. Some organizations take heed when they realize something is off kilter and some do genuinely try to be more proactive than waiting until something seems awry.
I’ve noticed that most of my clients over the years do truly believe they’ve got their organization’s processes under control. Many of them do have a pretty good handle on things. A lot have a great handle on some things. The missing link is sometimes something quite simple, though. Some businesses don’t realize that our processes need to be consistently updated, amended, or modified to meet constant changes.
When we consider this in basic terms, we can clearly see that process improvement is part of an organization’s lifecycle. When we break down the steps of any given process, it gives us the chance to identify any areas that need amending or refining. The two easiest ways to gain traction here is by using a business process map and ensuring very clear communication practices.
The goal is to ensure that our objectives are clearly defined and in alignment with our organization’s goals. A couple of areas to watch for include:
- Projects or processes executed at the local level still need input from corporate. We can get so used to operating at a local level that it can be an easy slip to miss
- Ensuring corporate expectations are in alignment when refining local level processes. This ensures our goals are in alignment with the company’s mission
- Ensuring that the process is current. Consider the level of importance if a process might be replaced soon
- Considering overarching expenses in conjunction with the particular process being refined
- Remember that any kinks discovered during the process improvement are usually linked to another process. That means that the other process likely needs attention, too
Process refining should be cross checked by a manager or direct report directly involved. He or she can check for accuracy and consistency. Using a fresh set of eyes, such as an external consultant will help unveil any blind spots. When we’re working in our business it can become real easy to miss things we’ve grown accustomed to looking at, dealing with.
The lines of communication must be very clear. It can be easy to assume that we’re on the same page as the manager cross checking the amended process. Watch for hidden agendas. Whether intentional or not, sometimes hidden agendas exist.
Take for example, a process you are in the process of amending and improving – a process that the manager receives some sort of recognition for when his team exceeds performance indicators. Intentional or not, his interest may likely be in making sure it’s ‘easy’ for his team – rather than in alignment with your organization’s overarching goals.
If you are using an external consultant, be sure that you are following up with any questions or pointers he is suggesting. When it’s our company’s process we’re dealing with, it can be easy to dismiss a suggestion because we truly think we’ve got it all under control. Remember, an external consultant is a fresh set of eyes. He can pick out blind spots that we’ve likely grown accustomed to.
Running regular business process improvement initiatives also gives us the opportunity to make sure we’re using the best technology. With technology constantly updating and upgrading, it’s easy to become comfortable with what we’ve been using. This is an area we can check for wasted expense, too.
Lack of efficiency is a direct correlation to wasted expense.
One more area to watch for is making sure our manager or direct report – whoever has staff using this particular process – is vested in this improvement process. If he or she has other priorities on his mind, he might miss something vital to its accuracy. It needs to be a priority.
Click here to read more about business mapping.