If your company has embarked on a process improvement initiative, the key will be improving processes that can benefit the business in some way. But what do you do if you've been told to improve a process and you can't find anything wrong?
The old adage – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – doesn’t apply here. There are always options for improvement that should be considered. It might not be obvious at first glance, but you may be surprised what you find by investigating a little deeper.
It may not seem obvious to you, but if you’re being asked to improve a process there’s someone in the company who believes it needs some adjustment.
Here are five ideas you can use to help you discover the best approach to take.
Idea #1: Look At The Big Picture
It’s possible that the business process alone doesn’t appear to be broken. But what it’s doing may be contributing to poor outcomes in other business processes. Take a look at the places this process intersects with other areas of the business and see if you find anything revealing. Also consider questions that may reveal important data. Does the process fit in the overall strategy of the company? Is it a major contributor to outcomes that impact key measures? What other strategic issue does the process have the potential to affect?
Idea #2: Maybe It’s Not Broken
A process doesn’t have to be broken to be improved. When it comes to process improvement, there’s always something that can be tweaked or adjusted to improve the efficiency of the process. What if you had no constraints for making it the best there is? Or an alternative view might be to take a look at the steps from a catastrophic perspective. What if one of the steps had a major failure in the future? Is there modification you can make to the process today that would minimize or eliminate the chance for future disaster?
Idea #3: Work It Backwards
Start at the outcome of the process and walk each step back to the beginning. Sometimes it’s easy to miss small issues when you know what the next step is. Take a methodical approach to walking through each step from the end to the beginning and you may just find an opportunity for improvement.
Idea #4: Do Some Detective Work
There’s a reason why Columbo always got his man. You can do that too by observing behaviors of the people who are involved in the process and ferreting out information by asking relentless questions. Another good way to get this work done is to conduct a Change Impact Assessment which will help you clearly identify what change you are making and what is really needed from a big picture perspective. It could be the catalyst that allows possible changes to surface.
Idea #5: Skip It – For Now
Processes that work don’t work effectively forever. Changes in business direction, changes in technology, and changes in people can impact its functionality. Perhaps the best thing to do is to move on to optimizing a process that has obvious improvement points. Get some success under your belt and then return to this process at a later date.