Make existing processes work

 

Repairing the drains in the City of London

Repairing the drains in the City of London

When something isn’t working, the temptation is to throw it out and start all over again. If it’s a business process that’s not working, then the classic approach is to initiate a “business process redesign” project.

However it might just be that the existing process is fine, it’s just not being properly followed. This is always worth considering before embarking on an expensive redesign project. Redesign is needed if:

  • there are obviously too many steps in the process: you can see straightforward ways to improve it
  • there is new technology such as barcode scanning, hand-held machines, or remote monitoring which can make a big difference
  • there’s another big change project on the go, which means that this process is going to have to be redesigned anyway

However sometimes the problems are:

  • everyone has their own variant of the process, causing misunderstanding and errors
  • people aren’t using the process because they don’t know it exists, or don’t realise it matters
  • people are circumventing the process in order to reach some other goal

For example, in one company I worked with, sales people were circumventing the centralised pricing process because they wanted to strike special deals for their customers, and reach their revenue targets. This practice then meant that different sites in the same customer got different prices, which was hard to explain to the customers’ ¬†purchasing departments, and it also meant that profit targets were eroded as sales people struck low-margin deals to win the business.

There was nothing in principle the matter with the centralised pricing process, except that it was rather slow, and it wasn’t enforced.

Here’s how to polish and sharpen up existing processes, and make them work.

  • Make sure everyone knows what the process is, so they don’t feel it necessary to invent their own.
  • Make it clear to those concerned that this process applies to them: they are not an exception.
  • Mostly, people want to do a good job. Re-enforce the idea that following the process is a component of doing a good job.
  • See what motivation people have for following the process, and if necessary provide a reason, incentive, or motivation. Link the process to achievement of individual people’s needs or rewards
  • Demonstrate how beneficial it is for everyone to follow this process. Help people to realise what happens to the data they enter, explain what regulatory framework we must comply with, or show why consistent practice delivers better service to customers.
  • Train people, so they have the skills to operate the process.
  • Enforce. Make sure there are consequences of non-compliance.
  • Measure the adherence to the process, and the process outcome. Communicate and encourage the successful results of aligned and consistent activity.

Of course this may not work, and the process may be broken. But this should not be the default assumption.

Renovation, rather than redesign, might be the best option.



Categories: The process of business change

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