When it comes to inefficiencies in business, it can be really easy to quickly hone in on and point the finger at specific departments, a particular piece of software, or even an individual member of staff. Interdepartmental politics and egos come into play, and when it comes to resolving issues, the people involved can be quite shortsighted. While on some occasions this could be the case, more often than not in the situations we come across, the problem is in the business process. More specifically, the way the business process is mapped to the systems that support it, and how well it is enforced and followed by departments and individuals can be the difference between an efficient business and an inefficient one.
That being said, there might still be bottlenecks or sticking points in your business process at the micro level which are causing a bigger problem than you might imagine. But how do you approach reviewing your business process in order to find these big, or even tiny, issues? Here are a few tips on overcoming business process problems picked up during our decades of experience reviewing, designing, implementing and mapping business processes in a wide range of businesses.
Go high level
As we alluded to at the start of the post, it’s easy when it comes to identifying inefficiencies to point the finger at something specific. Whether that’s your classic “well the computer system’s just so slow” or “Susan in Dispatch doesn’t know what she’s doing” – people love a common enemy. The important thing to bear in mind is not to immediately zone in on those and make them into a scapegoat. Go bigger – look at the entire process, end-to-end. Look at the goal the business process is trying to achieve, even if it seems obvious. Work the entire thing through and then assess whether it’s achieving that goal. This the only way you’ll identify problems and be able to work to a resolution.
Consider all the possibilities
We’ve covered this in a previous post, but it bears repeating. It’s very common when initially designing and implementing a business process for businesses to fall into the trap of the “sunny day” scenario. This means you’re only simulating your business process under conditions where everything goes to plan, where absolutely everything throughout the entire process goes right. Ask yourself – how many times is this likely to happen? Think about what happens when the process is put under stress from elements completely out of your control: fire alarms, power cuts, equipment failures, whether a member of staff had breakfast.
As we’ve said before, we’re not that idealistic – it’s not possible to simulate and document every single possible scenario. That’s why you need to remain reactive and able to quick decisions in response to problems. Nonetheless, you should try running your process through a number of “worst case” or “not so best case” scenarios, to identify any areas where it might be possible to put in fallbacks or reroutes should things go wrong. Or better yet, redesign the process so a common occurrence which could derail everything isn’t even a problem – for example, automating something to eliminate or reduce human error.
Involve your people
While you want to avoid finger-pointing as much as possible (see above) – it is important to talk to and take into consideration the opinion of the people who are actually involved in the day-to-day execution of the business process. What are their common challenges? Do they see any areas for improvement? Do they even know the process exists? This is another one which may seem obvious but could cause major problems if it’s slipped under the radar – what if an individual or department closely involved in the process isn’t actually up to date and aware of the process itself? It may seem unlikely, but it’s easily done. If a process isn’t owned, documented and communicated effectively, it’s easy for new employees or even existing ones to slip through the cracks of being informed.
By the same token, people will be more likely to be receptive to and adopt new or changed processes if they feel they’ve been involved in the decision someway. If you consult a team or a department before making a change that affects them, you’ll get a much better response than if you just go ahead and make the change and force it on them later.
Relate back to strategy
As we’ve mentioned before, a good business process serves to achieve a business goal. If it doesn’t, it’s not efficient. Reviewing your processes through the lens of the wider business strategy will help you to tighten up and make sure you’re not wasting time and resource on steps and stages which are not delivering value to the business and ultimately the customer. For example, does a particular department have a check off in a process because they need one? Or is it a political thing? While navigating this sort of thing can be tricky, you have to keep what’s most important at front of mind – the success of the business.
You don’t have to go it alone
Going back to basics with your business processes can be quite an undertaking, particularly in businesses with multiple locations. Not only that, but once you think you might have identified the problem or problems, how do you go about enacting change to fix them? That’s where we come in. Our consultancy team have decades of experience designing and implementing business processes client-side. Why not let us do the heavy lifting for you? Get in touch.