There is a saying in the business process world that ‘process makes perfect’. As a business process leader, I am certainly not going to argue against the virtues of adopting a more process-driven model.
But is perfection truly an achievable outcome from ‘process’ alone? I would argue that there are two more pieces to the puzzle to be added before we arrive at a solution with much greater potential for achieving perfection.
Below is a brief outline of a three part approach to driving real sustainable improvement through process:
- Process: Is the business fundamentally in agreement about how a product or service should be delivered? Have all key stakeholders had an opportunity to provide input? Has the process been considered carefully to reduce waste where possible?
- Systems: Now that you know what needs to be done and how you plan to do it, are the tools available to deliver on that vision? What changes need to be made to ensure the people who have to deliver are equipped to do so effectively?
- People: The final and most important piece in this solution is ensuring that people not only understand what is expected of them, but are adequately prepared. Do they have the required education and skill-set? Are they trained in the specific process they are working on? Do they understand the objectives of the given process and what constitutes success? Do they know how to use the systems that are available to them in order to arrive at the desired destination?
To put this into context, let’s imagine a scenario in which you are interested in reducing the amount of time it takes your team to prepare a set of monthly reports.
You might decide to spend time analysing employee performance and organizing training sessions with the hope that this will allow them to generate the reports faster and more efficiently. But in actuality, there might be some key information that is not being captured in the system, or the reports that the system generates may be old and outdated and require significant manual formatting.
In this case, the process is not necessarily the cause of the problem. Rather, there’s a disconnect between the output the team is required to deliver and the systems and process that are being used to generate that output.
Applying the “Process, Systems and People” approach in this case would involve speaking with those who are performing the task and discovering where they are getting stuck or feeling frustrated, and where they can see opportunities for improvement. You would also assess any systems they are using to determine whether everything is working as it was designed to.
After this sort of analysis, a simple system adjustment – properly documented and effectively communicated to the team – could ensure they are capturing all the information required for the reports up front and are equipped to perform their task in a much more efficient manner going forward.
Focusing on process improvement in isolation is failing to address the problem or objective in its full context. Taking a broader view of the process in its real context can ultimately bring much greater and more sustainable improvements that will be more likely to survive in the long term.