Manage the Course, not the Results — Insight on Process Improvement
Each and every action we do in our day to day life is followed by a series of activities or rather steps which ultimately ends up in the end result that we expected. So intentionally or unintentionally we run through a process. We may not realize it, but processes are everywhere and in every aspect of our leisure and work. For example;
- Getting ready to go to work
- Preparing breakfast
- Cleaning your room
- Writing an article
- Making a monthly budget
- Placing an order
are some of the daily processes that we follow.
When it comes to business perspective process are one of the key fundamentals that helps a business entity to function. Processes within an organization will define the quality of the outputs and better functioning of the business activities. That is why organizational goals are always aligned with the business processes.
Let’s see why business entities focus more on developing a well-defined business process over their normal functioning.
- To identify what tasks are important to business goals
- Improve efficiency
- Streamline communication between people/functions/departments
- Set approvals to ensure accountability and optimum use of resources
- Prevent chaos from creeping into your day-to-day operations
- Standardize a set of procedures to complete tasks that really matter to your business
However, in this dynamic business environment, having a well-defined business process is not enough at all. But instead, we should always look into continuous Process Improvements. In simple terms, Process Improvement is a proactive task of identifying, analyzing and improving current business processes in order to meet improvements in quality standard and current process optimization.
Why does Process Improvements are so much important for a business entity?
According to Mind Tools, “Unhappy customers, stressed colleagues, missed deadlines, and increased costs are just some of the problems that dysfunctional processes can create”.
This is very much true since we deal with people and with their expectations and thinking patterns which change over time, business entities too should subject to continuous improvements the way it performs processes otherwise it will likely fall behind the market. Whether your business is performing well or not you should always keep an eye on process improvements.
Okay, so having an intent for process improvement is not enough, but companies should follow us the right ways or right methods of identifying and making changes. Below is a six-step model where you can use to improve your business processes for better outcomes.
- Map the process
First, you should identify the process that needs to be subjected to improvement. Involve the people who are regularly using this process and develop a flow chart or any other diagram that graphically represent the steps of the process. Discuss the key functions that each and every step of the process involves. Engaging the people who are frequently using this process every much important to get a clear idea about the process and also not to miss any part of the process as well.
2. Analyze the process
Involving the people who are related to the process and with the help of the flow chart developed, look at factors such as;
- What issues are getting team members or customers frustrated?
- Which steps are creating bottlenecks?
- What is causing costs to rise or quality to decline?
- Which steps require the most time to complete or cause the most delays?
In this stage, you will identify the areas that need to be changed or subject to improvements.
Also involving people related to the process plays a major role in the analysis stage too. If you fail to involve them or if you omit them in the process improvements procedure I guess it’s just a waste of time and resources.
3. Redesign the process
After analyzing the current process it’s time to redesign the process adding the necessary changes or improvements that will eliminate the problems you highlighted. Once again involving the people related to the process and working closely with them enables you to come up with creative and innovative solutions in redesigning stage.
Depending on how complex the system is, it is your choice to conduct an impact analysis to understand the full effects of the process improvements and this will give an idea on how the outcomes of the process change with the made improvements.
4. Acquire resources
Next step is to list down the resources that need to implement the redesigned system. Include resources such as advice from senior management, feedback from colleagues and other cross-functional departments, IT, finance and human resource. Communicate with the respective parties and educate them about how the redesigned process will benefit the organization.
5. Communicate and Implement the changes
This is a vital step in process improvement where you communicate the improvements and changes you made to the current process to respective parties and implement the redesigned process. Without proper communication, the made improvements will not generate expected results. Make sure everyone understands what the improvements are meant to do and the importance of the redesigned process.
After communicating with the respective parties you can implement the redesigned process. You can either go for a test run or else can implement the redesigned process as it is.
6. Review the process
After rolling out the improved process it is very much important to study the functioning of it and closely track how things are working. Monitoring is vital where you can see the deviations from the implemented process and fix problems that might occur.
Also, check-in with the people who are regularly involving with the process to see how the improved process has affected their day to day business activities.
Processes are designed to streamline the way individuals and teams work. When everyone follows a well-tested set of steps, there are fewer errors and delays, there is less duplicated effort, and staff and customers feel more satisfied. And also it is important to remember that process improvements are essential and it is an ongoing endeavor.