How To Drive Process Improvement
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The term “process improvement” has become increasingly popular in recent years. You may have heard it before, but what does it mean?
Process improvement simply means changing how things are done to make them better. It is not about doing something new that works even worse than the old way!
When you think of process improvements, usually two things come to mind. First, you think of making changes to improve the quality of an existing product or service. For example, instead of offering your customers solid chocolate bars, why not offer them milk with their lunch every day?
Second, you think of creating new products or services from scratch. So maybe instead of selling pre-made chocolate bars, you develop your own recipe that people can take and mix into their favorite snacks.
Both of these examples apply to the workplace. If we were trying to convince other departments to work together more efficiently, this would be an effective approach.
But there is a third type of process improvement that goes beyond those two ideas. This kind of improvement looks at how well *the current workflow* is working for one group and tries to find ways to make it better for another group.
In fact, many times these types of processes need some tweaks or adjustments made from top to bottom to really work. That is where the true value comes in – not just for the groups they directly affect, but for the whole organization as a whole.
Make it a goal to implement new processes
The next step in process improvement is creating your own processes or modifying an existing one to make things more efficient. Creating your own processes can be done through designing flows, changing how materials are handled, developing new procedures, and/or finding software that can help you automate tasks already within your organization.
Modifying an existent process is usually much easier than starting from scratch because there are often success stories of others doing something similar before you.
You should also know what functions of yours could be automated and implemented into technology. Technology has made our lives way better by eliminating repetitive chores that we have to do manually so why not apply this concept to work?
There are many ways to improve efficiency via implementing new processes or automating old ones. No matter which option you choose, just remember that it must produce the same results as they did with no changes.
Measure your processes
The first step in driving process improvement is measuring your current processes, and determining whether they are working. What does that mean? It means assessing how well your present procedures are functioning and what can be improved upon or changed.
By this stage of your project, you should have determined if there are any major weaknesses in efficiency, time management, or effectiveness. If so, then it’s time to look for ways to fix those problems!
If everything seems to be running smoothly, maybe it's time to consider changing something about how you operate. Or perhaps you don’t need to make too many changes at once – just try one new thing every week and see what happens.
Your organization may already have some tools at its disposal to measure the quality and speed of its work. You can use these to determine not only whether existing processes are effective, but also where you could improve them.
It’s important to remember that no matter what process change you implement, there will still be someone who has to do their job using the old procedure. This person will likely feel frustrated or even overwhelmed by the changes made, which can negatively impact their performance.
So before making any drastic changes, think through the possible consequences and take precautions to mitigate against negative effects. For example, you might want to test out your proposed changes on an intermittent basis until you get clear results. Only then should you fully adopt the new approach.
Look for weaknesses in your processes
A few years ago, I read an article about how to drive process improvement. The writer focused mostly on looking at your current processes and determining whether they are efficient and effective.
He suggested instead looking beyond these tasks to determine what parts of the work flow could be improved. For example, if you have to email someone 10 times before they respond, then try talking to them in person or using a video chat tool instead.
This shifts the focus away from just changing the task itself and onto finding better ways to get the same result. It is also important to note that creating new processes can be difficult because it may violate people’s habits and routines.
Project Managers must strive to improve existing processes as well as create new ones so that we do not need to spend too much time doing administrative work.
Plan for growth
A successful process improvement initiative requires that you are willing to spend time planning and executing changes. This could include changing how work gets done, adding new processes, or tweaking an existing one.
It can be difficult to motivate people to change how they do things if they don’t believe it will make a difference. If your organization is already doing well, why would anyone feel motivated to strive for excellence?
If your organization isn’t performing as well as it should, what makes you think others in similar positions will respond any better?
Planning process improvements takes time, but it’s worth the effort. You’ll find that once you have a plan, others will want to help you implement it.
You’ll also learn more about what works and doesn’t in leadership and teamwork.
Hold team meetings
Team meeting are an integral part of process improvement. Not only do they help keep people informed, but they also promote teamwork and collaboration. As such, most industries require at least one per week.
Team meetings can be formal or informal depending on what type of conversation is happening. They can last hours, minutes, or seconds so it makes no difference how long you hold them as long as they continue to have productive conversations.
Formal team meetings typically start with someone introducing themselves and their role in the organization. Then, everyone breaks into small groups to discuss topics that matter to them.
These group discussions can include things like next steps, updates, questions, and anything else relevant to the task at hand. When everything has been discussed, we come back together as a whole for final decisions and action items.
Create a checklist
A process improvement project is not about changing what you are doing, it’s about changing how you do your work. Changing how you do your job includes making changes to your workflow, developing new processes or procedures, creating new ways of getting things done, and redesigning existent systems.
When something goes wrong, check off item number one on your list — identify the cause! Now, go back and repeat this process with steps two through five until all items on the list have been completed.
This way, your team will learn from their mistakes instead of having to start over again because they forgot an important step in the process. By using this approach, you will see continuous improvements every day, week, month, and so on.
Even though this may feel like an intimidating process, taking notes is one of the first things you should do when listening to someone talk about business processes.
By taking notes, you will have more lasting memories of what they say than whether you remember their name or not!
This also helps you organize your thoughts so that you can refer back to them later. Plus, you get to see how well you pay attention to detail.
You’ll probably start out using pen and paper but eventually you’ll find a note-taking app that works for you. Some people even use their phone as a way to take notes.
Whatever method you choose, make sure it is easy to access and quickly. You want to be able to easily review your notes if you need to look up something or add something new to your notes.
Document your processes
The next step in process improvement is documenting your current processes. What steps you have now, what works well, what can be improved, and who is responsible for each step. Once done, compare these new documents with the original ones to make sure there are no significant changes.
After that, create a timeline to determine when each step should occur. Create an entry for every step as well as a column to note when it happens currently and when it should happen according to this document.
Once everything is mapped out, start making changes!
It’s very important to only make small changes at first. Try to add an extra line here or take away one thing there but don’t modify anything majorly. When time allows, repeat this process again so more progress can be made.
Before implementing any of these improvements, perform a cost-benefit analysis. Is this worth it? Will it bring us closer to our goal or will we just waste money?
This article has discussed some simple ways to do process improvement.