If we’re looking into business process improvement, then we’d consider the fact that we go through business processes every now and then. For instance, you will go through the same steps when generating a report, communicating with a new client, dealing with a customer complaint, or when trying to come up with a new product.
But again, it’s very likely that you’ve come across the results of an inefficient business process. This is something that manifests in form of stressed colleagues, unhappy customers, missed deadlines or even increased cost of production etc. That’s the reason why you’re reading this post today, to improve such a dysfunctional process that always results in losses.
Business Process Improvement Steps to Follow
Understanding Business Processes
They can either be formal or informal. Formal processes are often documented, and they have well established steps to follow. For instance, one may have a normal procedure of receiving and submitting new invoices. These processes are really important especially when followed due to safety or financial reasons.
On the other hand, informal processes are ones that you have created on your own, and so you have not written them down. For instance, you may have your own technique for carrying out market research, taking note of meeting action and so forth.
To this end, we’ll focus on incremental process change or business process improvement. It’s about improving the processes that are already in place.
Improving Business Processes
We mentioned some problems at the beginning of this article. So if you’ve been experiencing anything similar to this, it’s highly recommended you review and update your processes. Here are your steps:
1. Map It
Once you’ve identified the process you want to follow, you need to document every step using a flowchart. You can even use a swim lane diagram because it highlights the process visually. Swim lane diagrams are more complicated than flowcharts, but they are good for visually highlighting processes that involve a large group of people.
It’s important that you comprehensively explore every stage in details. The reason being, some processes may have sub-steps which are easy to miss out on. You can consult those who use similar processes regularly to ensure that you don’t make mistakes.
2. Time to Analyze
This is where your swim lane diagram or flowchart gives you a clue as to what problems might be involved during the process. Once you identify the problem, you can ask yourself several questions.
For instance, you may want to know where exactly are employees getting frustrated, which steps are creating a bottleneck, why costs are shooting and quality diminishing, or even which steps take a longer period of time to implement, thus causing delays.
You could use the root cause analysis, or what we call the ”5 whys”. You want to identify the cause, rather than fix the symptoms only for the problem to persist.
You can speak to people you think are affected by the process. Find out what they think about it. Find out what suggestions they might be having for improving it.
Then consider what other teams in your organization have done in the past. How have they dealt with similar problems before?
3. Re-design the Process
When you identify the problem, you need to eliminate it, and this calls for re-designing your processes. Doing this also requires that you work directly with the people who are involved in the process. They might contribute new ideas into the process, plus they are more likely to adapt to change if they were involved in the initial stage.
The first step is to ensure that everyone knows about what the process is aimed at doing. Then use step 2 to explore how to address the problem in question. Brainstorming is very essential during this process. Note down everyone’s ideas regardless of the cost.
After you gather a long list of ideas, narrow down those ideas to a short list of ideas that can be transformed to real life context. You can conduct an impact analysis to determine the possible effect of new ideas being implemented. Risk analysis can help you evaluate points of failure in this new process.
These steps are only meant to help you understand the consequences of every process you choose to implement, thus giving you the chance of making the right decision that affects everyone.
Once you and the people you work with have identified the process, you need to document every step by creating diagrams.
4. Mobilize Resources
Every change comes at a cost. So if you have a new process on the way, expect to assign all the resources you’ll need for effective implementation.
Resources may come in form of guidance from your seniors in other departments such as IT or HR. You need to communicate to them about how this new process will help further the goal of the organization or business.
5. Implement The Business Process Improvement You’ve Made
Changes mean you’ll have to upset the existing system, teams or even processes. You may find yourself hiring a new team manager, acquiring a new software, or even organizing additional training for employees.
In fact, rolling out a brand new process is a project, so you need to plan for it carefully because it could make or break you. It’s recommended that you run a pilot test first to identify possible problems that may arise. Create time to deal with any teething issue.
Take note that implementing change is never easy, since you’re changing the order of things people were used to.
6. Reviewing the New Plan
A few things will work from the word go. So the moment you roll out the new plan, closely monitor things to see if they will work according to expectation. Monitoring the process is necessary because it will help you fix problems if they arise.
Engage the people involved in the new plan by asking how it’s going and if there are any frustrations. You can make small improvement along the way to ensure that the process is efficient and relevant.
Change in a business setting is not always easy. For one, it involves costly resources. It might even come with a few mistakes, which must be rectified. That’s the only way to successfully implementing business process improvement.
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.