Do Your Processes Carry Extra Baggage?

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Keep The Complex Simple

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A GUIDE FOR PROCESS IMPROVEMENT

How often are you analyzing your organizational or team processes? We often find as time passes, personnel or tools change and processes become modified or more complex. When processes are too complex, people become exhausted and mistakes become more common. These mistakes can affect productivity, customer service, and the organization’s bottom line. Process improvement increases efficiency and overall success of an organization. Proactively analyzing your processes is done to avoid employee burnout, costly errors, and become a more agile organization, rather than just reacting to problems when they appear. Eliminate the baggage your processes are carrying around by keeping the complex simple.

What do We Really Need?

A process is a series of actions or activities, changes or functions that bring about a result or permit work to get done. Variation is the enemy of process. When processes are used consistently across an organization, teams are aligned and therefore more effective. We know, changes will inevitably occur that will demand changes in the process. When processes are simple it’s easier to train others the same way, maintaining consistency. If a process is too complex to explain to others, or takes too much time to train, chances are the process has gotten too complicated overtime and could be simplified.

Keeping the process simple improves the organization’s ability to respond quickly and effectively. The process itself will be more flexible and adaptable to spread to other departments allowing for greater consistency. The components of a simple process must add value and connect to the purpose of the process, otherwise those components may be unnecessary. Eliminating unnecessary steps in your processes will eliminate stress for your team and make them more efficient increasing productivity.

Have you ever been training a new team member on a process or system and they ask, “Why do you do that this way?” or they make comments about the process length, or need to be modernized? These are signs the process is too complex, or the person may know of a way to simplify the process. If your answer is “because that’s how we’ve always done it,” it’s likely the process should be revisited to get back to the purpose.

Creating a schedule or continuous improvement cycle for revisiting processes such as P.D.S.A. is recommended. If we leave process improvement up to “whenever we get to it,” odds are, you won’t get to it. To keep a process simple, we analyze and understand the process using a system such as the 5 Whys. It’s important to keep documentation of our processes and revisit that data to determine how well the process is working. Before you’ve finished simplifying the process, be sure to circle back and double check that it fits into the larger scheme of the organization and the steps are aligned to its intended purpose.

Simplify Your Process in 4 Steps

Get Back to Purpose

  • Identify why are we doing this?
  • What value does this process provide?
  • What is the intended outcome for this process?
  • Watch how to use the 5 Whys to expose the purpose.

Revisit the Process

  • Are the current processes connected with the purpose?
  • Have things changed? Are there any new tools or technology we haven’t implemented?
  • Can we improve or eliminate steps? Is this the most efficient way to execute?
  • Watch how to use a Deployment Flowchart to examine a process’s efficiencies and areas for
    improvement.

Check the New Process

  • Does the new process achieve what we intended?
  • Measure your outcomes. – How well is this working?
  • Does the new process address the intended purpose?
  • Identify any bumps or bottlenecks in the new process.

Look for the Law of Unintended Consequences

  • Does it fit into the larger scheme of the organization?
  • Does it affect anyone or anything else in the organization?

Enlist Help From Your Team

The best person to improve a process is the person who carries out the process. Fully utilize employee skill-sets – can someone be doing more? If the process is improved, they will likely have time to take on higher level work.

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