All businesses have the goal of improving their production and business processes as one of their operational goals. This allows the company’s technical procedures to be made more efficient to reduce costs, optimize the operation of some areas or departments and minimize the errors that may derive from such inefficiencies.
Process improvement is a business practice that identifies inadequacies in an organization’s processes and seeks to rectify or enhance them. Its objective is to review them and carry out the corresponding adjustments to minimize or permanently eliminate errors.It is irrational to believe that it is possible to optimize all of a company’s procedures. A wide variety of factors are involved in them that are not always related to each other, so companies must look for those that are generating the most inefficiencies and focus on optimizing them to the best of their ability.
Why is process improvement important?
There are numerous reasons to improve your company’s processes:
- Reduce, as far as possible, all the technical and production inefficiencies present in the company, as well as the possible errors that may arise from them.
- Decrease cycle time.
- Reduce the resources needed to carry out the activity, which results in improved productivity and reduced costs.
- Improve the quality of the product or service, at least what is perceived by customers.
5 General Process Improvement Steps
Business process improvement, like every other business management discipline, offers a variety of techniques. However, the general principles are usually the same and cover the following steps.
Finding the problem: A business problem or challenge is the driver of any process improvement project. This phase involves asking, “What aspects of the business can you enhance or resolve?”
As mentioned earlier, management can use business process mapping to get an overview of current business processes. The excellent thing is that you won’t need a pen and paper for this.
Companies can use visual elements like digital flowcharts to show each step of their processes. Task or workflow management applications can also map and track processes in real-time, giving users an overview of operations and a list of employees responsible for the activities and tasks that make up each process.
Analysis of the problem: After the assignment of the process comes to the analysis. Understanding the root causes of inefficiencies, redundancies, and errors is the first step. In most cases, this requires the involvement of entire teams or departments to provide feedback and suggestions on how to improve processes.
For example, if a department discovers an unusual pattern of employees quitting within a year of being hired, there may be a flaw in the human resources department’s hiring process. However, this may be a sign of bad communication between the hiring manager and the department of the company.
Redesign the process: Once a problem and its causes have been identified, the company can proceed to redesign the offending process. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this strategy because every organization is unique. However, certain best practices work in almost any situation:
- Choose the right metrics to measure progress – This allows you to quantify the impact of improving the process.
- Get as much feedback as possible – make sure you get input from field-level team members, who are experienced to suggest the best strategies that will lead to high job efficiency.
- Define the scope of the redesign – This makes it easier to identify risks and predict the impact of any changes made to a process.
- Plan long-term changes – Any change in a process must be worth it in the long term. A redesign with short-term results can only end up costing the company more money.
- Perform risk analysis – it is impossible to predict outcomes with 100% accuracy, so it is important to leave room for error. Have a backup plan if things go wrong and are prepared to go back to the drawing board if necessary.
Implement the changes: Implementing process changes is a challenge of establishing buy-in with your employees and other stakeholder groups. It is imperative that company leadership gain buy-in and support in outlining the rationale for improving the process and how these alterations can help the organization. It is expected that business leaders experience some obstructions or obstacles. After all, people can be careful about change. One way to gain support is to make small, incremental changes to a process to demonstrate results.
Measure and refine: The business process improvement is an ongoing effort, not a one-size-fits-all deal. As mentioned above, it is important to choose the right metrics to measure the impact of improving a process. However, regardless of the outcome, the organization must not shy away from the drawing board and find a better approach to improve processes.