Documenting your business processes is one of those "must do" things in today's business environment to help you stay competitive. But just because your business processes are documented doesn't mean they are the most efficient. There are actions that take place on a daily basis that won't show up on your process maps.
One of the best ways to improve your business processes is to get the people involved together and hammer out the steps that waste time or duplicate effort. This action can help you take big steps to improve efficiency.
If your company manufactures products, that should pretty much take care of making things more efficient from a process perspective, but it’s not the last thing you need to do to make sure the processes are as efficient as possible if your company provides services.
Why is there a difference? During the manufacturing process, there’s normally one person per role. That person performs the same steps in the process repeatedly without interruption. On the other hand, in a service based business that’s not typically the case. Most of the time, these employees perform multiple activities that are contained in different processes.
And that’s where the problem lies. Most companies look at each process independently so they think once a process has been optimized, that will take care of all the inefficiencies.
But when the same person fulfills multiple roles to perform multiple activities within multiple processes, it can slow things down. Because process maps focus on roles, not people, this potential road block won’t be revealed during your documentation process.
Here are the two main problems that can trip up an otherwise efficient process.
1. Time In Queue (aka wait time)
When a person is working on completing a task for one business process, any other tasks requiring that person’s attention are typically sitting in a queue just waiting to be done. Depending on how long the current task takes, this wait time could really cause a delay in the process being completed. If multiple processes require this person’s attention, the delay will increase exponentially and can completely clog the pipeline of activities.
2. Switching Time
Although it seems that we smoothly move from one task to another throughout the day, there is always switching time required before we become most efficient with our next task. Switching time is the time it takes us to focus on the next task at hand and get started on it. Multiple tasks cause multiple switching gaps which increases the amount of time it takes for a process to be completed.
How To Find and Fix Hidden Inefficiencies
The most obvious way to find these problems is to take a good look at any processes that may be getting completed slower than your expectations. You also want to make sure and look at processes end to end to determine where there might be too big of a load on a particular role. In that case, there’s likely a person that’s getting bogged down. Another approach is to take the roles of the map and put people’s names on it. Then track the load by person.
To fix the issue once you find it, look at possibly cross training another person to take on some of the tasks or shift responsibility from one person to another. Just make sure you don’t create a new problem by doing this.