How to Improve Your Business Processes
Before we start on the how of business process improvement, let’s look at the why…
Changes in technology, business goals, workforce, markets and customers’ needs require organizations to continuously look for ways to improve and simplify internal processes. Organizations that regularly review their business processes maintain a faster level of response to market changes, economic changes and customer preferences. By improving your company’s ability to respond to changing or unexpected events your company is in a far better position to weather unexpected storms and to take advantage of unanticipated windfalls.
Flexibility: A Key Component of Organizational Success.
Your company’s ability to respond to events, as fast and as effectively as possible, as well as to eliminate waste is related to your ability to streamline procedures, standardize tasks, and control outcomes.
Streamlining a process means eliminating unnecessary steps that make the process time-consuming and overcomplicated. Automation and workflow management ensure that processes are handled correctly, reducing error and offering better control of the outcome.
Maintaining organization flexibility requires that you align all your business processes seamlessly, thus eliminating bottlenecks and slowdowns in workflow. Continuous business process improvement requires process optimization; thinking lean about every aspect of work and being able to respond quickly to changes, redesigning and transforming the way you work every time the circumstances ask for it.
People: Engage and Improve
If your organization is to be flexible, you must engage the people who perform the tasks, encouraging improvement in all processes. When your employees know that their input is valued and taken into consideration; when they understand how the improvements in their own area affect the entire company, they take pride in their contributions to organizational success. Every person in a company should feel the responsibility to optimize and improve their business processes and should feel empowered to bring their suggestions to management.
When people own the outcome, they are encouraged towards making decisions that aid in process improvement. By giving people the space and liberty to make suggestions without fear of reprehension, and also to work to improve their own processes, they’ll be more and more likely to want to improve continuously.
Action: Moving from Ideas to Improved Processes
People in general are very good at having ideas, but implementation is a bit more difficult, especially when the day-to-day business must continue to be done. Now, we’re into the how of business process improvement:
- One thing at a time
Limit the number of process improvement initiatives being considered for implementation. Start with the departments and processes that will have the biggest impact on the organization. Generally the departments that are heavily dependent on incoming and outgoing paper documents are great places to start: Accounts Payable; Human Resources; and the Mail Room are three examples.
- Have a detailed plan
Ensure that not a single process improvement initiative will be started without having a clear plan submitted with all the necessary details, such as due dates, deliverables and accountability. If you’ve not done process improvement or gone from paper-based systems to paperless before, it’s a good idea to get input from someone with prior experience.
- Talk about your plans
Talk to everyone on your team, constantly and continuously, about the how important it is to improve your business process, as well as keeping them updated on the status of the initiatives. If you’re using an outside process improvement vendor, make sure they and your entire team are on the same page.
- Be scalable and flexible
The demand to improve your business continues to increase as expectations change, new technologies emerge, and competition grows. An effective way to establish continual improvement within your organization is to conduct regular business process improvement audits. When you move from paper-based processes to paperless automated processes, make sure you choose a solution that will grow with you and change as your organization changes.