Most people can identify when something’s broken, either by themselves or with help from their teams. But it’s another matter entirely to improve the process in a way that aligns with overall business objectives, integrates well with existing systems, is fully visible, and improves productivity and other essential outcomes. Here, we explore questions you should ask before taking action.
What defines process improvement success?
It’s critical to improve an individual process not for the process’ sake, but because it helps to solve a business problem. Often, when your constituents say they’re unhappy with something, they haven’t really explored the root of the problem and what can be done to solve it effectively through a business process.
The main strategy here is to openly discuss your constituents’ core priorities and pains. Gather their input not just on processes they don’t like, but ones that they DO like. This will facilitate everyone’s understanding of why certain processes exist in the first place and the issues they were designed to alleviate. Once you’ve identified the business problem at the heart of this particular process, you must also identify what the process will do to address the problem, the parameters of the improvement and/or solution, and how you will measure success. On this last point, process improvements should be quantifiable and easy to map to common business metrics.
How can our process have the biggest impact?
If you’ve completed the activities above, you have likely achieved alignment between the organization’s overall objectives and the process that’s being improved upon. You should also ensure that the new process can evolve fluidly with business strategy and that it offers numerous opportunities for decision makers to track progress toward major goals.
As you can see, this type of thinking on process improvement leaves little room for the silo mentality. As Digital Clarity Group analyst Connie Moore succinctly put it while at Forrester: “While it’s possible to tackle projects within a single business function, usually high-value business processes belong with a larger, cross-functional way of working. Getting organizations to overlay their functional thinking and org charts with a process mindset is a challenge that often requires prying 100 years of crusted-over work patterns and practices from executives who have never imagined any other way.” So yes, if you want your process to have a larger impact, you have to talk to people outside your department.
How should the new business process be designed?
This is where business process modeling, otherwise known as BPM, comes into play. According to Creately.com, BPM is a mechanism for describing and communicating the current or intended future state of a business process. It’s a means of representing the steps, participants, and decision logic in business processes. By doing this in a formal way, you enable solid analysis and further improvement of these processes.
BPM is commonly a diagram representing a sequence of activities. This diagram shows events, actions and links or connection points, in the sequence from end to end. It’s often cross-functional, including both IT and people processes and combining the work and documentation of multiple groups in the organization. People, teams, and departments feature in BPM in terms of what they do, to what, when, and for what reasons – especially when different possibilities or options exist. BPM software is often used to apply its methods more efficiently.
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