Many business owners and executives constantly ask Business Process Improvement Specialists the question “Why improve processes?” Are you among this group?. There are several strange myths about the field of process improvement. Many of these are often presented as the reasons why process related work is of extremely low priority to a business.
The processes in your organization should exist to create value in your day-to-day activities and improve the customer experience. You should not adopt process improvements as a “fire extinguisher” approach for when you experience a major constraint in operations. It should also not be a one-time exercise.
Is Your Business a Candidate for Process Improvement?
How do you identify a business that requires process improvement? While any business can benefit from improving and managing processes, some businesses may be in more dire need than others. They are not difficult to identify……
If your business is dissatisfied or frustrated with either the revenue you generate, or the customer experience ratings you receive, then it is time for some process improvement. While you desire to transform into a business with higher return on investment and exceptional five-star customer experience, you struggle with making this a reality.
How can you do this? By improving your processes to convert all non-value adding, risk-promoting, error-creating and non-compliant activities into activities that will only increase profit margins.
Your business becomes more efficient, compliant, high performing and competitive in its industry.
Why Improve Processes? Let’s Debunk Myths about Process Improvement
Seven of the more strange myths usually given as reasons for push back against process improvement are listed – and debunked below:
“We have processes in place that have served us well for several years, so why rock the boat?”
This is probably the most interesting reason given by business owners. Do you have this erroneous belief? This myth is precisely WHY you need process improvements. Leadership can decide to mimic the attitude of an ostrich with its head stuck down in the sand and continue to operate “business as usual”. But, what is the cost of doing so?
Is your business truly efficient? Could you be getting better results or even more revenue? Is your customer experience something you are proud of, or is it just tolerable?
If you are unwilling to change or explore improvements, it means that your business is not operating at its full potential. You must understand that process improvement is not a one-time exercise even if conducted before.
“Process Improvements will not allow us to be flexible”.
Your employees may think that flexibility means allowing them to unilaterally change the way a process is executed based on “a better idea” they may have. Unfortunately, process improvement will not allow you to do that WITHOUT going through a Change Process.
A Change Process will inform the people and departments that use that process of the proposed change. This will allow them to provide input in the suggested improvement of that process. It is only well defined processes can drive accomplishment of the business objectives.
If you do not work in in a department where process is key to efficient operations it is easy for you to view processes negatively. One way is to see them as a series of roadblocks that will slow-down your day-to-day work.
You might also believe that having clearly defined processes, or improving current ones will deny you of your unique and sometime unorthodox approaches to problem solving. While every business encourages creativity, all process changes should be made with the knowledge of your team..
“There is only one way to improve a process.”
It may sometimes appear that there is only one way to improve a process, but this is not true. Some industry professionals have a preferred method of process improvement that they promote over others. However, the reality is that most process improvement methods use the same collection of tools and techniques. They just use different names. Refer to a previous article – What is Business Process Improvement? There is no “cookie cutter” method that you need to follow to make it successful.
Typically, the method that you will use in your business will depend on the type of process you wish to improve. Therefore, while the underlying principles of the methods are generally similar, the tools and techniques may be different.
“Only the factory and manufacturing sectors require Process Improvement”
Since process improvement is popular in the manufacturing and factory sectors, and is associated with names such as Toyota, it is logical for you to think that it is not relevant outside of these sectors. This is inaccurate.
It is not necessary to have an assembly line operation for your business to benefit from process improvements. While you may not need to focus on all your business processes, your critical core processes will need to be improved.
Most industries have best management practices, regulatory standards, procedures, certifications and other requirements. These are core to operations monitored by government or other agencies.
Any process improvement initiative you conduct must ensure that you incorporate these requirements to ensure that you are in compliance.
“You only need to improve your processes a single time.”
Once process improvements are made in your business, the benefits are easily noticed. Unfortunately, many businesses forget to make continuous improvement part of their organizational culture after improvements have been made.
If after conducting improvements, your business does not perform audits and continuously tweak processes to continue improving, things can slowly grind to a halt. You will lose the initial benefits gained from the improvement, and the business can revert to its previous inefficient state.
“Process Improvement is a slow process, time-consuming and expensive.”
To bring any change to any business requires resources of time and money. This means that the longer the timeline for your improvement project, the more resources you will need to channel into it.
If your business leadership can demonstrate a strong commitment and drive to the process improvement initiative, and mobilize their employees, then improvements can be conducted quite quickly. It is when leadership fails to make timely decisions and keep their employees focused and engaged on the improvement, that timelines can slip and drag out.
If your business suffers from broken processes, do you spend a fair bit of time doing project rework and putting out fires? Are you constantly looking for documents? Have you thought to quantify that in the amount of lost man-hours and costs? In many cases the costs far outweigh the requirement for having the process improved. Would you rather continue to put out fires? Every day, every week, every month? Forever?
“Process Mapping is the same as Process Improvement.”
You probably also have an erroneous belief that creating a process map of your ideal or future business state is the same as process improvement. This as a myth! Process Mapping will require that you first assess your CURRENT business state to identify and fix bottlenecks prior to creating your future state while incorporating quality control checks.
So as you can see, process mapping is simply a tool that helps improve a process and shines the headlights on areas that require fixing.
Now that you have a better understanding of the WHY in “Why improve processes” you have one of two decisions to make. Decide you want to run a more efficient, compliant, and high performing business competitive in its marketplace or, choose to continue to stumble over bottlenecks as you put out “fires” in your operations day after day.
Whichever way you choose, you are paying for process – one way or another!
“Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than trying to solve them”
– Henry Ford