Many people tend to focus on getting their personal house in order at the start of a new year. But it’s also an ideal time for businesses to re-evaluate as well.
The beginning of a new year offers us a fresh start and the opportunity to focus on our goals. When reviewing strategic plans and big-ticket projects, we should always revisit our prioritization process. Many factors – from industry changes to competitor activity to organizational realignment – can demand a shift in priorities. It’s important to be responsive, nimble and open to change, or else risk getting left behind.
Your first priority should always be the mechanisms that teams use to create and deliver desired products and services: processes. Well-defined business processes are the foundation for the success of any technology investment, new project or initiative. Organizations that invest in efficient, customer-focused processes generally come out ahead, better differentiating themselves from their competitors.
How do you know if your organization’s processes are in good shape? Here’s a quick process checkup to perform: does the first or second column below characterize your business’s current process view?
Dysfunctional Processes of Yore
Defined on a departmental basis
Work is duplicated, or rework is required because information is not stored efficiently
The customer experience depends on who is handling the work
People “just know how work gets done”
Frequent reflection, “There has got to be a better way of doing this.”
Manual tasks based on spreadsheets, copy/paste and ad hoc emails
Successful Processes for 2018 & Beyond
Designed with the customer experience in mind
Data entry and storage cater for downstream process needs
Front line employees provide a consistent, high quality customer experience
Processes are documented
Process gaps are identified and addressed in a timely manner
Automated routines based on authoritative data in compliant systems
Businesses with strong processes in place will find themselves squarely in the second column. If you found your responses to this process checkup falling more into the first column, your 2018 priorities should be adjusted accordingly. It may sound intimidating, but there are definite guidelines that can help you on along the path to improvement.
Here are five basic tenets that companies undertaking process improvement need to know:
- Process improvement efforts require laser focus on the customer (or the main beneficiary of the product or service ultimately delivered).
- Facts and data should substantiate the process or activity that has been identified for improvement.
- Emphasis should be placed on efforts to remove inefficiencies from the work performed, while generating more value.
- A structured and disciplined approach will deliver the greatest impact.
- Process standardization fuels growth, while variation and unnecessary nuances cause rework, disruption and impede scalability.
Leilani Plougmann, MBA and Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, has been delivering business consulting projects for over two decades. She excels in problem solving and partners with senior leaders, implementing solutions to business challenges. Leilani works relentlessly through ambiguity while applying the structured, systematic thinking and tools derived from Lean Six Sigma to deliver tangible improvements for her clients.
For a more detailed look at the five core principles mentioned here, take a look at Process Improvement: What Should You Know? on the Leverage Business Consulting blog, Insights.
A #StoutSHOUT from us to Ms. Plougmann for sharing her top tips for process improvement with our readers. Read on for our #STOUT takeaways and click here to read more on fresh starts from Stout Magazine.
Our #Stout Trio of Takeaways from Plougmann’s advice:
Be brutally honest: No fresh look is possible if you insist on wearing rose-colored glasses. It takes strength to admit that things are not working, but a commitment to the truth will reveal where improvements need to happen.
Discomfort is OK: Change is a disruption, even positive change. Knowledge tends to comfort people – try to keep your team in the loop when deciding and implementing improvements.
Don’t fear structure: Many leaders, especially those with an entrepreneurial or nontraditional background, see structure as something that will stifle freedom or creativity. But when your processes are streamlined properly, you actually have more time to focus on new ideas.