Process Improvement itas

Master The Skill of Process Improvement in Six Easy Steps

Here at itas, we regularly carry out the implementation of new software. Implementation is not about just installing the software. In fact that is the easy part – though don’t tell our tech team I said that! The hard part is actually managing change. This is because, usually implementing software requires a revision of process. If it doesn’t then why is the change being made in the first place?

Very often these could be small incremental changes – like using an online form rather than a paper. But, sometimes they can be an entire re-think of a process. That is the bit I really enjoy!

So today we are going to think about how we should go through process improvement. In an ideal world (where I have unlimited days onsite) or someone onsite that has the time to manage this process over and above a new software implementation.

So, here are the key steps to designing and implementing great processes.

Step One – Discuss the process with your team

This is critical. All too often someone designs a process without consulting those that are actually involved in the process itself. Getting their feedback and buy-in nice and early is not only a great way to ensure there is no surprises but they may already have ideas on how to streamline and improve. Also they are the perfect people to make you aware of the impact of any process changes. This is vital. No one wants to implement processes that just aren’t going to work!

Group Meeting

As part of the review session there are several key things you should consider doing. Firstly set some ground rules.

These should include:

  • What is in and out of scope. You have a limited amount of time, make sure you are focusing on the process that you set out to improve. Be clear about the processes it may impact or be impacted by. Then decide whether they are/are not part of this discussion. It is fine to park a process for later discussion.
  • How to challenge in a positive manner. This is incredibly important. Particularly if you have individuals with very different personalities within the group. You want those that are normally a bit quieter to feel comfortable participating. Those that are normally the quietest are the ones that you need to look out for. They only tend to speak when they have something important to say
  • The process. Make sure they are aware of the process that is going to follow so they are not wondering what is going to happen next
  • Ensure everyone is aware of why you are addressing this process in the first place. They may not even realise the impact of the steps they are following! This is really important.

OK! So now you have everyone on board, how do you actually start reviewing processes themselves?

Step Two – Reviewing the Process

My preferred approach is to use post its on a whiteboard. You can flip them round to a kite shape for decisions or use as normal squares for steps. The first step, is to map out the current process. Make sure everyone has a piece of paper handy and if they are having ideas or questions as you are mapping the current process they need to write them down. DO NOT try and edit the process until the current process is fully mapped out.

Then take a picture! Address any questions everyone has written down and make sure you have covered every single scenario that process can cover – list them if you are unsure! It could be slight tweaks to the process for account vs credit customers or depending on the type of product or location. Think of every ‘WHAT IF’ you can.

Now….with the current process, identify problem areas. These should include, but are not limited to:

Bottlenecks i.e. areas where work builds up or takes ages to get through
Single Man (or Woman) dependencies i.e. where is a process reliant on one person
Decisions i.e. areas where there are too many options or decisions can you remove them to simplify the process

Then remap your perfect process with the post its!

Process Improvement Post Its

Step Three – Document the revised process and get it approved

Well done! You got through the worst bit! You have navigated the minefield that is process engineering, that wasn’t too bad was it?! So, this next step is important. You have created a beautiful process map but now you need to put it down on paper and circulate for review. I would suggest you talk the feedback as a group. Any changes need to be reviewed with the team, again so any impact can be assessed. See our blog on process mapping software here!

Step Four – Walk it through

It is incredibly easy to miss a key element. So I always recommend walking a process through with several real life examples, particularly the difficult ones! This allows you to make sure that there aren’t any “Gotchas” before you go live. Do not be tempted to skip or skimp on this step…it will not be “Alright on the night”!

Step Five – Assign a process owner

Who is going to lead on this process? Assign someone who has responsibility for implementing this process. Who is going to do random checks on live examples and stages to make sure that the new process is being followed and people haven’t slipped back into bad habits!! You should also assign responsibility for a process. Who is responsible for looking after and monitoring this moving forwards. They are the one that people go to if things have slipped or if there are issues with this process.

Step Six – Set a review date

Now I am a massive fan of continuous improvement. But, if you have lots of processes its well worth setting a specific date at which you do a formal review of the process. You don’t want to leave it too long after the re-engineering. Say 6-8 weeks but after that, a yearly review is the norm!

Conclusion

Well, I hope this has given you some confidence to get stuck in and redesign your processes! We love to hear your ideas and thoughts. so please comment in the below with your top tips for implementing process review – and of course any questions you have!

If you would like our help with Process Improvement, get in touch!

Bye for now!

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About the author

Hannah Lincoln

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You have never finished learning. Whether this is the newest software, business strategy or how to create the perfect coffee, I am passionate about increasing not only my knowledge but that of our team and our customers. Brought up in a family of successful strong women, I have been brought up with the attitude that everything is within your reach - as long as you work for it and I try to live by that principle every day. With a love for gadgets and evermore efficient business practices I am a fully certified Sage CRM and Sage 200 Consultant whilst managing the solutions team at itas - an established and rapidly growing sage business partner. I get a real buzz out of implementing systems that deliver results for both organisations and the people that use them.