I have the privilege of working with forward thinking businesses. These businesses know something isn’t quite right, but they can’t always put their finger on it. I’m called in and using a variety of techniques, discover and correct workflow holes and implement process improvement.
Birth of a Process
The first time that a series of steps are performed to complete a task, a process has been born. I use the word “born”, instead of developed, as rarely are processes designed. A business process exists because someone saw the need for something to get done. All of our daily activities are conducted through processes, some are good and some are poor. We recognize the poor processes typically through things that frustrate us. For example, standing in line for hours waiting for a representative to take five minutes of their time to explain the many pages of forms required to fill out. Poor processes can be the state they are in due to something I call a Frankenstein Business Process.
Typical Development of a Business Process
Most processes change many times. They may change in response to changes in technology, changes in products or services and/or changes in customer requirements. Most often, however, a business process changes for various other reasons, not always in a way best for a business.
One of my responsibilities when working with a business is to ask why they do things the way they do. The typical response is that no one knows why and that it is how they have always done it. One business I was called into found themselves in a state of panic and urgency because the company they relied on for their envelopes had gone out of business. It was an important part of their workflow and they weren’t sure how to manage the change.
It turned out that the specialty envelopes were ordered once because the standard ones were not available, and they continued to order believing there was a requirement for them when there really wasn’t. On the surface, this may seem to be a small issue, but it really created a great deal of problems as a new vendor couldn’t be identified and it was effecting their production to not have this particular and critical supply.
In this case it was envelopes, but in another scenario, it could be a change in adhesive, for example, that effects the final product output. This, in turn could also affect price, skills needed, equipment changes and more.
The Frankenstein Process
Over time, business processes will naturally change. We hire new employees with a mix of education and experiences who change the processes to try to make them better, or in response to poor performance of the business. These changes become a “Frankenstein” process, that is, steps have been added or removed without really looking at how the process works overall. Processes like these are ingrained with wasteful, frustrating and unproductive steps that end up costing a business money, or worse yet, employees or customers.
I believe it doesn’t matter how great your product or service is, your business is only as good as its processes.
The biggest curse to innovation is that of “We’ve always done it that way”. When we really look at the need, regardless of how things were done before and independent of the fixes that were put into place, we can discover waste and inefficiencies and replace them with new, improved processes that are long-lasting, rather than quick, Frankenstein fixes that eventually fail.
Contact me today to learn more about how I help businesses to simplify and improve their business process making them easier to understand, perform and manage. Together, we will create a continuous improvement culture and healthier bottom line.