Here’s the thing about many business processes: one person is usually in charge of the initial design, and then over time, everyone else has to add their two cents. Before you know it, the process is muddled and barely manages to accomplish its initial purpose. As we’ve talked about, organizations also tend to rule by consensus, which means that various individuals have to sign off on every step of a project. This quickly results in an inefficient process.
If you have a business process in your jurisdiction, it’s worth considering if you or your team has over-complicated the matter. After all, processes that are unnecessarily complex slow down productivity and decrease profits. Here are a few steps to ensure that you’ve “cut the fat” appropriately and that your processes are as simple and streamlined as possible.
Revisit Your Purpose
Ask yourself: why was this process established in the first place? What is the business result you are trying to achieve? For instance, you may have created a peer review cycle for the purpose of catching mistakes in client documents that could cost the company business. Solicit your team’s feedback to assess if this is still a valid goal and/or if it needs to be modified.
Tweak the Process
Review the current process from top to bottom as if you were an objective third-party who is unfamiliar with it. What flaws do you see? Does anything take away from the original purpose of the process, and are there any steps where the team is not as efficient as it could be? For example, in the situation above, are most document errors being caught after the first peer review? If so, is it really necessary for the document to go through an additional two peer reviews? Look for places where you can remove process elements without diminishing quality or customer satisfaction.
Take to the Cockpit
Before implementing your streamlined process on a wide scale, you’ll want to pilot it first. Using the same project, first undertake the old process and then follow with the new process, and see whether your productivity and business results are better with the latter. Query anyone involved with the process to see how it’s working, and whether further tweaks would enhance its effectiveness.
Shout from the Rooftops
When a process is firmly embedded in the organizational culture, it can be difficult to change. More often than not, people will slowly return to the old way of doing things. If you want your simplified process to have legs, you have to communicate how it works multiple times, using multiple methods. Be detailed and specific, and available to train and/or answer questions from those who are implementing the process on a regular basis.
When spreading the word, remember your diplomacy. For instance, if you are changing a process that was someone else’s brainchild, that person may be defensive. Assure the owner that the process is important and valuable and that it is simply evolving rather than going away.
What other techniques do you use to simplify your business processes?