Are We Improving or Just Documenting Processes?
In the book, Maximize Performance we learn, “Good processes should help leaders achieve the organizational and departmental goals they are accountable for.” However, in our work we see that many organizations fall short of implementing the right processes and improving them properly. When processes are working well they enhance and improve our work, and when a process needs improvement it creates stress and may interfere with reaching organizational goals. Documenting a process is the first step towards continuous improvement, the key is to learn from the current process and explore ways to increase results.
The purpose of documenting a process is to use the information to make better decisions. For example, imagine you were in the hospital connected to a heart rate monitor. The monitor is consistently checking your heart rate and providing the doctor with the data. Based on this information, your doctor sees that you have an irregular heartbeat, an arrhythmia. Your doctor announces to you that you suffer from an arrhythmia, a note has been placed in your file, and then he leaves. He doesn’t prescribe a plan of treatment or a medicine, he is there just to record the data and document it. If the doctor stops at documenting, his patient could suffer further serious heart complications and possible death. The doctor must take the next steps and use the information he has collected to analyze and offer treatment for the arrhythmia. Just documenting is not enough, the information we collect can be used to take action. It is expected that doctors don’t simply admire the data there are collecting, they use it to make improvements to our lives and solve medical mysteries. Do you just document processes in your organization, or are you improving processes?
Align Goals, Actions, and Processes to Improve
In times of continuous change, success depends on better execution. The primary challenge for an organization is to find ways to be consistently more successful than the past. Improvement is simply a necessary part of becoming a high performing organization.
“The most effective organizations outperform others. And in our experience, staffing and resources do not drive organizational performance, nor do they detract from it. The best performing organizations are often the most efficient. The real contributing facts are lack of alignment, reluctance to standardize best practices (action), and accountability.” -Quint Studer, Straight A Leadership.
To create alignment between goals, actions, and processes we ask, ‘What should happen to support our vision?” Conducting process performance reviews provides support for achieving the highest levels of performance. Are you doing things because ‘that’s how they’ve always been done,’ or does your organization strive to act in the most efficient, effective way possible? Depending on the size of your organization it’s possible someone in another department is aware of a time saving solution to achieve the same outcome. Aligning processes across your organization creates consistency and leads to greater success. It’s important to start by documenting processes, and more important to continuously analyze and review what’s documented to make improvements.
The documenting, analyzing and reviewing of processes can be done by all employees and teams. Our research on employee engagement indicates that employees want to have input on decisions that affect their jobs. When we engage employees in conversations about data, they feel valued. When we act on data, they feel validated. This commitment to employees sets the stage for creating an engaged work environment. Not only can we use data to improve processes, but also to increase employee engagement and problem-solving skills.
4 Steps to Process Improvement:
Examine & Document the Current State
- Understand how the process works and the intended outcome
- Conduct internal and external surveys
- Use a deployment flow chart to graphically show how the process moves
- Ask, “Does the process work; should it be improved?”
Share Information & Gather Input
- Ask team members for their feedback: “How can we improve?”
- Gather and document all ideas with one of the following tools:
- Look for Current Best Standards to adopt
- Remove barriers
Create & Implement an Action Plan for Improvement
- Adopt other best practices
- The goal is for everyone to hardwire a process consistently
- Use a template such as the Improvement Action Plan to document
- Plan a way to validate the process has been implemented
Continuously Monitor Progress
- Follow up and report out on progress every 90 days
- Decide as a team to adopt, adapt or abandon the process
Pilcher, J. & Studer, Q. (2015). Maximize Performance. Pensacola. Firestarter Publishing.
Studer, Q. (2009). Straight A Leadership. Pensacola. Firestarter Publishing.