Improving your business often starts with the processes which make up your operations. These are the lifeblood of your organization, delivering products and services through a range of activities and by a range of people and departments. Therefore, making sure these are working effectively and efficiently is crucial to the success of your business improvement efforts.
To do this, there are a number of different approaches you need to take and techniques you need to deploy. We will look at 5 steps in Business Process Improvement, listed down in chronological order of what you need to focus on first before you can move on to the next.
5 steps in Business Process Improvement
Step 1: Identify the process
It is vitally important you identify those processes truly in need of support and reform. Processes that should be in scope for this type of work are those that are leading to problems with your products or services, complaints from customers or employees. They will be those processes that may be taking longer to complete than they once did, have become wasteful and bloated. By identifying the right process here, you can unblock them through your work, ensuring outputs get to the right place quicker and in better shape.
Look at the data, have conversations with those involved and try to establish specifically which process is in scope for this work. Clearly state the name of the process, where it starts and where it ends. Being very clear on the scope of the process itself will help you avoid scope creep later on.
Step 2: Map the process
Gather together your team, focusing on those who work in and run the process as part of their day job. Run a process mapping workshop where you will map the process out, end to end. This will include all activities, hand offs, departments, decision points, flows of data, information etc. Everything that happens within the process will need to be clearly presented on this graphic. To do this, a flowchart is the most popular type of process map to show such required information.
Once mapped, you need to walk through the flow of the map. Ensure everyone is in agreement with what has been mapped, the flow of information and work through the process, the starting and end point, and note down any discrepancies here. This map is going to be vitally important moving forward.
Step 3: Analyze the process
With the map complete, you now need your team to dive into the detail about how the process is currently performing. Walk the process and note down any information you believe will be important at this stage. What issues are being faced and where do they currently reside? Which steps are proving problematic? Which hand offs are causing the greatest delays? Can you highlight time taken or cost of to any of the activities? Are there blockers, rework loops, bottlenecks etc. that are completely halting parts of the process or causing errors?
All of this insight will help you to identify the solutions to any of the problems you face pretty quickly. As you are moving through your workflow and conducting this work, it often becomes quite apparent where the focus of improvement efforts need to be and potentially, what solutions you should think about.
Step 4: Identify your solutions and required changes
You will again revisit the map, but this time to think about what it is required to fix the problems you are facing. How can we remove step X? How do we reduce waste in this process? How can we speed up delivery time? Etc. All of these questions will be asked as you run another workshop to discuss the changes that are required. This will involve the use of root cause analysis tools, such as a Fishbone Diagram or 5 Whys to understand why your problems are occurring in the first place, enabling you to focus on the right solutions.
You will also run some brainstorming exercises, including using Affinity Diagrams, to land on your chosen solutions. This will involve generating ideas, discussing their metrics and challenges and then landing on which ones to take forward. Again, you will need consensus on the solutions chosen to maximize their chances of success.
Step 5: Deploy the changes
Finally, you need to deploy your solutions in full for Business Process Improvement. This will require the team to all pitch in and deliver their aspects of the solutions. You may run this part as a full project, depending on the nature and size of the changes proposed. This step will require a number of additional activities such as communications out to the wider business, a workshop to process map the new process that has been deployed (if changes to the actual process have been made) and the identification of good controls you are putting in place to ensure the changes last the test of time.
Really key at this stage is ensuring you collect the benefits of this deployment, and measure them against what you originally set out to do. Have you achieved or exceeded your original targets? Have you seen the reduction in errors, issues or problems you had hoped? Has waste now vastly reduced, with products and services getting to market quicker and in better quality? Knowing this and showing it to the business will help you build your case for further, bigger business process improvement projects, keeping the ripple effect of your changes spreading out across your organization for years to come.
5 steps in Business Process Improvement: Conclusion
Business process improvement is a highly in demand and powerful technique which, if deployed effectively, can yield substantial results for your organization. The focus is on the process, but the benefits can be felt in your procedures, people and products, your clients, customers and colleagues. To understand how Leading Business Improvement can help you achieve business process improvement better, faster and more focused, why not follow in the footsteps of many of our clients and get in touch with us today – or try one of our related courses.