Why this overlooked improvement tool can be holding back your business from its full potential.
So the story goes, a business process management consultant walked into an office to meet with the manager of the site to discuss a major process redesign. As he waited, he noticed as the staff members came into the office, those who biked into the building signed the bicycle book. However, only those that biked in would get this honour. Upon asking at reception the reason for this, they were told that the book, once completed, went to HR, but they did not know why. At HR, the consultant was told that the completed books were then stored in the files, as it has always been. After a little more digging, it came back to a time where those that cycled were given a lunch entitlement, but that had long elapsed.
The bicycle book served no purpose, nor meaning, it created no value and was simply an action and really a waste of resource. Could a process redesign be used here? I think it was probably beyond even that…
Of course, the bicycle book example, whether its history is steeped in truth or myth, raises an interesting point. When a business is operational, it is sometimes incredibly difficult to take a step back and review certain processes. After all, surely every process has an outcome, and if that outcome is serving its purpose. Can it really be that broken?
In article published in Harvard Business Review, business owners are urged to fix the process, not the problem. That is what a business process management consultant looks to do when working with a client.
There are classic telltale signs that actually, the process over time has moved away from its original design and purpose. Especially if you are well versed in knowing where to look. Complexity and misalignment over time can easily creep in and whilst the machine is still turning, it may be at times, stuttering in its purpose.
Simply, business process reengineering is about defining the requirements of the process, ensuring that all steps add value and implementing the redesign effectively within the team.
So, coming back around to those classic signs that show it has come to the point of requiring a redesign. Whilst it can be easy to pass some of these points off as general feedback, if you are hearing the same complaints over and over, it may well be that taking a deeper look will pay dividends.
I have, at multiple times in my career, set out the following elements as a targeted improvement for process redesign. Like all projects, we must ensure that there is a tangible outcome for the investment to improve, a classic SMART target is perfect for this situation.
Okay, sometimes not everything goes perfectly and as a customer, we have the absolute right, if not duty, to let the business know that we feel let down. Without that feedback, how do we hope to improve? If however, the same complaints are surfacing about the same touchpoint, it is time to review that process and address its fit for your business today. Process redesign can be implemented to reduce customer complaints by focusing on steps that add value to the customer.
This can take two guises. Firstly, if the process itself is administratively burdensome, from a time in motion perspective, there are probably a host of steps that add no value to the process. Alternatively, if there are a host of administrative correction processes, such as changing a manufacture of the product on the line, or crediting part if not all of the order. This is a clear sign that the process is not fit for purpose. An effective business reengineering project can be used to reduce administrative complexity.
If on-boarding is a headache, even in an ISO accredited company, that could be a sure sign that the process harbours too much complexity. Again, ensuring that all steps add value is essential in any process redesign. A lean, efficient process redesign will reduce training cycles as well as increasing throughput of existing overhead.
Well unsurprisingly, process redesign is, in itself, a process. Who would have thought it. Generally it will follow a fairly prescribed format, that ensures defined outcomes are achieved.
There are, of course, within this, nuanced steps and tools used to deliver this improvement.