How to Know When You're Ready for Process Improvement

Jun 29, 2016
6 Min Read
How to Know When You're Ready for Process Improvement

How to Know When You're Ready for Process Improvement

It would be helpful if a loud bell would ring when it’s time for your company to embrace process improvement. Since that’s unlikely to happen, you’ll need to be on the lookout for indicators that tell you when it’s time.

Process Improvement Indicators

There’s no one size fits all rule for this, but the indicators below can help you decide.

  • Your company has grown quickly – If you’ve been adding tools, products, and people to your company, it’s likely things are pretty duct taped together when it comes to getting work done. That means your current systems are probably inefficient and costing you money. It’s time to take a look at what should be optimized.
  • Your company has reorganized – Some companies spend a lot of time reorganizing into different functions or departments. I used to work for a Fortune 500 company that reorganized once a year. That’s a waste of time and an effort that can really set you back when it comes to efficiency.
  • You’re purchasing a new enterprise software tool – The last thing you want to do when you purchase new software, especially one that functions at the enterprise level, is to implement that software based on old business processes. Optimizing your processes first will ensure top productivity for your company.

How To Get Started With Your Process Improvement

Any endeavor that impacts how your company functions should have a “C” level executive who owns it. You can’t get the attention and resources you need without a commitment from the top. This person needs to be excited about the change and one who sees how the company will benefit from the investment required to make necessary changes.

In addition to having a top leader committed, a core team should be formed to guide the effort. Members of this team should be representative of functions across the company. The last thing you want to do is have a team leading the effort who doesn’t even understand the issues. Your line of business staff will be valuable members for this team.

Before the team gets started, it’s important they know what problem they’re tackling and why they’re tackling it. Here are three key questions that should be addressed before they even begin.

  1. What’s the problem? Being clear on exactly what problem you’re solving will help you define the scope and boundaries for the team and provide focus on what progress is being made as the effort moves forward.
  2. Why should we focus on this problem? If there are multiple issues your company needs to address, getting clear on why this one is the most urgent provides additional clarity and direction for your company.
  3. What is our expected outcome? Identify your company’s end state once the effort is completed. Are you driving towards reduced costs, increased sales, better customer service, or something else? This will be used as your success measuring stick as you move forward.

How To Keep a Process Improvement Effort Moving

The main thing to remember is – don’t start unless you’re willing to take action. There are a lot of good changes that will come out of this effort, but if they never get implemented it will be a total waste of time and money.

And remember, making process improvement changes can cause your company to initially take a big hit in productivity. There’s always a dip before the payoff as people in your company get on board. Plus the change process itself requires dedicated resources of people who are normally doing other jobs. It would be tempting to put the brakes on as soon as a productivity dip occurs, but that would be a big mistake.

From the outset, monitor and manage the process. There should be regular communication and reporting to the “C” level. And, if possible, set up a progress dashboard so every employee in the company can see what’s happening.

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