A huge part of what I do is centered around process improvement. Every company has processes they do that are painful and annoying because they are inefficient and no one realizes their benefit. But they exist, so there must be some purpose, right?
There are two big things to consider when looking at your processes:
1. Why does the process exist?
2. What is the outcome of the process?
If the answer to number 1 is ‘because we’ve always done it this way’ or ‘this is how I was trained’ you need to take a really close look at the answer to number 2. If it is something like, ‘a piece of paper that gets filed’ or ‘a report that no one looks at’ then you have a great opportunity to chop that process, or at least improve it so it has some value.
There are three phases to improving a process. First, you have to look at what you are doing. Second, you have to figure out how to do it better. Third, you have to implement those changes.
The first phase can be a challenge because it’s likely your processes live in the brains of the people that execute on them and they aren’t written down anywhere. Recording current processes can be a surprising exercise that visually demonstrates just how many things you do to complete that process that you didn’t even realize you were doing.
Once you know what you are doing, it’s time to figure out how to do it better. This takes an objective perspective. We are often tied to the way we have been doing things and it’s hard to let go – I always recommend bringing someone (like me) in to help with this process.
Once you know how you want that process to run moving forward, it’s time to implement those changes. Take a gentle approach here – you don’t want to force a change your staff aren’t ready for or don’t know why it is happening. Apply proper change management techniques, explain the benefit, then champion the change.
Process design and analysis can be hard, but it’s a valuable exercise that pays for itself many times over in lower administrative effort and reduced emotional stress on those who are executing it. Remember, 80% of your business runs on 20% of your processes. Make them count.