Business Process Management

Tips for efficient and effective process improvement at your organization

Every business operates with a set of formal or informal processes: a series of actions that team members (or tools) complete to create a desired outcome. Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of an organization’s processes can significantly influence its success. So, process improvement is essential to realizing your vision. It requires a systematic lifecycle approach. Be prepared to address the complexities, ambiguities, and anxiety that often accompany meaningful process improvement.

Many of our clients have a long history of process evaluation and change – both good and bad. As business and IT process consultants, our job is to maximize the efficiency and value of processes in a way that helps clients achieve their goals. Here are some strategies we find drive long-lasting process improvement.

Focus on the right process

Begin your team’s process improvement journey with one or just a few processes. This may require making a list of the many processes and sub-processes your organization utilizes and determining which are performing poorly. Narrow the list by identifying the processes that, when improved, address your most urgent business issue and create measurable value.

We often see “process for process sake” situations in which a process exists in documentation only or includes steps that deliver no appreciable value. Sometimes organizations maintain processes simply to achieve a specific process maturity score. That’s a waste of precious time and resources in terms of process development, documentation, maintenance, and execution.

  • Only develop and improve processes that support the business mission.
  • Begin by addressing the most important processes.
  • Take a disciplined approach to picking “low-hanging fruit.” Not all small, incremental process improvement exercises deliver benefits. Execute improvement steps that promote rapid, meaningful, and lasting value.

Success starts with a vision

Once you’ve selected the processes that can directly and effectively deliver the most increased value, build a vision: an objective or end goal. It could be reducing variability in delivery times from two weeks to two days, shortening request fulfillment time from three days to three hours, or driving approval and cost awareness through automated approval and escalation workflows.

  • The vision of success should be both achievable and clearly articulated. Awareness of the desired end point will focus your team’s discussion, analysis, and workflows.
  • Ensure your vision captures how you anticipate customer and user satisfaction to be impacted.

Understand your culture

Change doesn’t happen the same way across organizations: each organization is made up of unique individuals, cultures, and functions. Seek to understand where the process, product, or program is in its business lifecycle and build an improvement approach that considers team members’ readiness and abilities to absorb the change. Understand the organization’s history and business patterns so you can make informed improvement recommendations. Consider the total project scope and apply the correct approach for each stage of the engagement.

It’s important to speak the language of the business. Listen, observe, and pace the project appropriately. Understand which modes of communication work in your environment. Make sure your messages are consistent and are clearly aligned at all levels.

Every project will have proponents and detractors. Identify your influencers and understand their sphere of influence. Develop strategies for swaying or neutralizing detractors. Understanding culture minimizes the risk of pushback.

  • Make process improvement work for your organization’s culture.
  • Identify supporters and detractors. Build an engagement approach that will build momentum and interest.

Link KPIs to strategy

Thought Logic takes a holistic approach to ensure process improvement initiatives deliver maximum value. Our actions and deliverables often include:

  • Evaluating processes and restructuring workflows
  • Creating new processes and sub-processes
  • Sunsetting old processes
  • Automating and streamlining workflows and processes
  • Introducing and rationalizing technologies
  • Reorganizing organizations; driving budgetary and planning changes
  • Training and organizational change management
  • Developing Key Performance Indicator (KPI), metric, and customer satisfaction dashboards

Whatever the scope, each project needs key performance indicators and metrics to measure progress. You need both KPIs and metrics:

  • KPIs measure strategic objectives
  • Metrics measure tactics

Measuring tactical outputs may highlight effort but fail to link tactics to overall project success. KPIs are essential for gauging the strategic success of an improvement initiative.

An effective strategy should translate into action via strategic objectives. While careful monitoring is needed, your KPIs should measure the degree to which your strategic and operational objectives have been achieved. Capture this progress in simple, easy to read, scorecards or dashboards that can be used to highlight how the process changes are driving business value.

  • Create key performance indicators to measure progress against strategic objectives.
  • Document and share progress to demonstrate the value of the change effort.

A process playbook focuses and optimizes improvement plans for your organization

Though each department and program is unique (see the culture section above), a systematic approach to organization-wide process improvement can decrease risk while building substantial and sustainable systems. A Process Improvement Playbook drives consistent process change across your organization.

Here are some of the sections we often include in process improvement playbooks:

  • Strategic guidance and standards – for example, the organization’s business plan, competitive focus, or capability analyses
  • Frameworks and templates for action plans, charters, communications workflows, status reports, and more
  • Organizational design instruction
  • Discovery and analysis procedures

A process improvement playbook helps team members strategically design and execute process improvement. It guides and empowers teams to be self-sufficient and take ownership over their improvement efforts. We recommend that you publish your playbook on your intranet for easy access, downloads, and updates.

  • Develop a systematic approach to process improvement at your organization by creating a customized process improvement playbook

Thought Logic’s Business Process Management (BPM) group enables continuous improvement and transformation so your organization can maintain and expand its competitive edge. We understand BPM is not a one-time activity: it is a discipline. We help analyze, design, and optimize business processes to interconnect people, process, and technology. The end result is a cohesive, agile system that can respond to, or lead, market forces while maintaining a healthy ROI.