Efficient processes form a vital part of all organisations, yet it can be easy to forget the full impact they have on everything from staff morale to customer satisfaction.
It’s something that becomes clear when you consider an organisation that has successfully undertaken a program of process improvement. Staff are more engaged and motivated, customers are more connected, and there’s an energy and purpose to what is being achieved at every level.
Throughout these organisations, staff are also equipped to develop new ideas and empowered to improve quality and efficiency, reduce waste, and improve their workflows.
Achieving such effective process improvement is a long-term activity. It can be tempting to try to undertake it as a single project, but this risks the organisation missing out on many of the potential benefits. Instead, the goal has to be one of continual improvement that becomes engrained in the organisation’s corporate DNA.
More than just paper
Within many organisations, business process improvement projects have been synonymous with documentation. The thinking is that, if 75 per cent of processes have been fully documented, the project is 75 per cent of the way to delivering benefits to the organisation. This, however, is not the case.
Simply creating large numbers of documents won’t improve business outcomes because this is actually focusing on the wrong target. Compiling lists and lists of ineffective or poor-quality processes will do nothing to improve overall business outcomes.
Instead of creating documentation for the sake of documentation, the goal needs to be one of continual improvement that becomes a natural part of day-to-day activity. This is true process improvement.
Involve all staff members
While there is certainly a place for process specialists within an organisation, this doesn’t absolve everyone else from being involved in the improvement project. Management and governance are important, however the best people to understand processes and suggest improvements are those who are best acquainted with them. These people are the front-line staff who use those processes on a daily basis.
The process knowledge that is held within business teams also needs to be unlocked. New ideas, improvement suggestions, and collaboration on better procedures all comes from the experience of those who know and use the processes.
Achieving these positive business outcomes requires direction from senior management. They need to ensure teams have the time, resources, and motivation to achieve process improvement over the long term. Having all staff engaged in managing their processes will lead to the positive impact that is being sought.
Strive for continual improvement
While documented processes provide a template for activity, it needs to be remembered that they will remain in a constant state of review. Improvements and innovations need to be considered, documented, implemented, and shared so everyone can benefit from the change.
Ongoing strong communication is also vital. Encouraging innovation, through ongoing changes and improvements, needs to start at the top of the organisation and be explained to staff at all levels. Clear messaging through the process improvement project can make all the difference.
Establishing a healthy process culture also requires engagement and collaboration. Everyone involved in the project needs to be part of an ongoing conversation about how to better serve customers, improve cross-team cooperation, and ways to reduce lost time and resources.
A part of the culture
Within those organisations that have succeeded in a process improvement project, the activity has become part of the corporate culture. Staff engagement is improved, innovation flourishes, and new opportunities for growth are identified.
The benefits of effective and continual process improvement cannot be overstated. Those organisations who take the steps necessary to review, streamline and actively manage their core processes will be best placed to survive and thrive in coming years.