Business process improvement is starting to make a comeback as executives are thinking about how to increase efficiencies. I’m a fan of selecting a few critical priorities and re-focusing resources on how to improve the process and related outcome. However, I’m not a fan of what many term “business process improvement” which turns into a wasted exercise of creating volumes of 1-inch thick binders of best practice processes that sit on the shelf and collect dust. If they were providing value, wouldn’t the employees use them?
Instead, take the pragmatic route and focus on how to achieve exponential returns with a smart combination of business processes, systems and people. What are a few keys to success? 1) Involve employees. 2) Value diversity. 3) Plan-do-check-act model.
- Involve employees: It is critical to involve employees in the process from the start. The employees who perform the business processes which are being reviewed/ discussed should be the “stars” of the business process improvement initiative, and the leaders should be in a supporting role – after all, who knows the processes best? And, who will have the best ideas on how to improve upon what they do each day? The leaders who truly value their employee’s input and ideas and who can ask questions that help facilitate this process will far exceed their competition.
- Value diversity: It is important to value a diversity of ideas. In one company I worked with, the most significant bottom line business results were generated through a spirited debate. There were divergent views (one division valued processes and procedures and the other division valued creativity and spontaneity); however, by engaging in a spirited debate, they were able to take the best of both worlds to create an optimal solution – one that delivered bottom line results in terms of dollars and customer service.
- Plan-do-check-act model: The plan-do-check-act model provides a solid foundation for implementing the business processes so that the dust-collecting books turn into living processes. This model is as it sounds. Plan it, do it, check it (verify that the new processes accomplish what is intended), and act (standardize the process, continually improve it, etc.). And, to circle around to the first priority again – the employees are integral to the success of this model. Leaders provide the vision, resources and support. The employees lead the process improvement.
The latest trends, programs and technology might be exciting; however, they are not typically what will drive results. Instead, the right combination of people focused on business systems process review will typically lead to increased margins, efficiencies, service levels and cash flow. Will you take the time to achieve business process ROI?