Process Excellence – more relevant than ever
Love it or loathe it, process is an integral part of every industry and it is going nowhere. I work as a consultant who operates within the Process Excellence and Transformational Change space and almost all issues and problem statements, I see my clients face across industries can start to be solved, or at least improved, with well-defined and understood processes. These processes in turn facilitate value-adding change, in line with business strategy.
I’ve recently heard ‘process’ described as ‘boring’. Admittedly, when we think about process, it can provoke a mundane image of a repository somewhere within a company, that contains a plethora of process maps containing lots of boxes and lines, which ‘nobody’ really looks at. Well, I am here to tell you whether you consider it boring or not – process cannot be ignored. I certainly see processes and procedures being taken for granted and viewed as buzzwords for people and customers of organisations. That said, rigorous process remains the key to quality and consistency, so we must ensure it remains at the forefront of our minds when looking towards the future.
A simple process improvement offers a business the opportunity to become more efficient in its operation. The best process workshops I have experienced have been run on high emotion, looking at a process that frustrates people and getting into the nitty-gritty by asking the question:
“How could we make this process worse than it is already?”
It gets everybody’s true feelings/facts on the table and tends to quickly cut to the core of the problem. That is what we want to do right? Not beat around the bush, but create a simpler, smarter way of working.
Whilst rigorous processes are of critical importance in certain industries with less room for margin/error/variance, I believe every industry can reap operational improvements and add value to their customers and employees through well-defined, understood, exercised, and regularly reviewed process. Whilst process must be rigorous, it must also be flexible and without hinderance to allow organisations to react to change and changing market demands.
Below are some recommendations I would have observed and implemented with my clients for process success. Yes, it can be exciting …
Let process enable the achievement of your business objectives, not dictate the direction, or restrict growth
If your business is agile and responsive, your processes must be too. Outdated processes that don’t facilitate change, can challenge the future of a business and result in waste, or worse still, employee or customer dissatisfaction. Look at every process with a view of the ‘bigger picture’.
Use process visualisation to engage your audience and get the most from your people
Many stakeholders of a process don’t and won’t understand a traditional process map, so why present it to them in this way? Look at documenting your processes in a more accessible, stimulating manner for the process audience. You will see marked improvements in process adoption.
Define proper metrics with your people, not for them
Key to understanding pitfalls, bottlenecks, and areas for improvement are measures/metrics, targeting and tracking. Clear, achievable metrics allow you to measure success and can signal the areas requiring attention. KPIs should be agreed as ‘one team’, be clearly communicated, and fair.
Adopt a continuous improvement focused culture
A well understood process feedback loop should be in place to offer those involved in a process - employees, partners, or customers - the forum to feedback recommendations, improvements, fair challenges etc. All feedback should not only be assessed but actively encouraged.
Have a DMAIC mindset
Implementing a ‘Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control’ based mindset within your organisation will see you and your people looking to optimise and improve new and existing business processes and their design, as a part of daily life.
Train your people and implement change properly
A company cannot expect the most from its people if they do not take them on the journey of change together. Invest time in designing and communicating processes and new ways of working. Design your process with people in mind and teach them to want to follow your process.
Break down organisational silos and communicate
Recognise the knock-on effects and dependencies of working in silos. Involve people cross-functionally in your process design workshops, remember the ‘bigger picture’, and communicate accordingly. Communication is crucial, not as single functions, but as a wider ‘one team’.
As professionals with a ‘continuous improvement’ mindset, we have a duty to think of process not as a dated practice, but as the inherent key to a better way of working, unlocking quality and consistency in delivery of value to customers and our organisation’s people. Process should no longer be overlooked. It can be the simplest, yet effective way to achieve consistency, control, and quality. Given how diverse and ever-changing the world is, process is now more vital than ever, and should therefore be the underpinning foundation for everything.
If you think it is boring, change the way you look at process, it can be truly fulfilling and satisfying to reap the benefits of a process change, no matter how small. With the right people behind your process and the right approach, you have the keys to unlock the future of work.
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