5 Ways to Improve Processes Within Your Organization
Change, change, and even more change. Especially as it relates to the business environment, there seems to be a need for constant change. Below we’ll outline 5 ways to improve processes within your organization. New processes must be implemented to drive profitability, ensure market competitiveness, reduce costs, increase productivity, and the list goes on and on. This article will discuss popular process improvement methodologies and five critical steps to implementing changes.
Process Improvement Methodologies
There is no end to the methodologies for process improvement. While some methods are basic, others require individuals with a degree of training to implement successfully. Regardless of the method, initiating and following through with process improvement requires dedication, commitment, time, effort, and focus.
Following are four popular process improvement methodologies:
- Six Sigma
- Total Quality Management (TQM)
- Lean Management
Lean Six Sigma
Combines two methods of improvement processes, Six Sigma and lean manufacturing, to improve performance by systematically removing waste and improving output quality. There are multiple levels of certifications available for knowledge leaders.
Total Quality Management (TQM)
With Total Quality Management methods, all employees within a business or organization participate in process improvement initiatives with a long-term goal to improve customer satisfaction. Team members focus on processes, products, services, and culture.
This process focuses on long-term results by building a culture of continuous improvement. It seeks to deliver value from the customer’s perspective while eliminating waste and driving continuous improvement. The method often includes incremental changes to daily operations that progressively lead to increased quality and efficiencies.
The Kaizen method seeks to create a culture of continuous improvement where all team members are actively engaged and play a critical role in providing suggestions and leading implementations to improve the company. The “Plan, Do, Check, and Act” is often employed.
While researching the topic of process improvement, you will find many strategies in addition to those mentioned above. Regardless of the method chosen for your organization, a best practice would include producing and maintaining current, well-written Standard Operating Procedures. Five common steps stand out at the core of each technique or process. These steps are the essential components that will allow your teams to realize optimal efficiency and productivity while instilling a culture of continuous improvement.
You will achieve maximum results by assigning cross-functional teams to take ownership and collaborate in the discovery, development, and implementation of process improvement. Stakeholders can provide assistance by identifying problems and later delivering feedback to celebrate successes generated through continuous improvement initiatives. This will increase the adoption of newly implemented processes while demonstrating the value of each team member in improving organizational processes.
Five Critical Steps to Implementing Change
Step 1: Outline your current processes with the goal of identifying gaps and barriers to success, but don’t forget to highlight what is working well.
Step 2: Analyze your current process against your goals to ensure continued alignment.
Step 3: Develop detailed plans for changes, including eliminating unnecessary processes, implementing new ones, and enhancing current processes that will result in the realization of the mission, vision, and goals.
Step 4: Clearly communicate changes and their purpose, and drive the implementation.
Step 5: Review the process and measure the results.
Take a Closer Look
Outline your current process to identify gaps.
Although there will always be opportunities to improve organizational processes, there is no doubt that some areas are quite effective and working very well. Collaboration with the team will help to identify the essential functions that add the most value to your organization and individual business units. Document the details needed to ensure these vital processes remain at the core of your standard operating procedures. Without identifying these critical steps in your documentation, newly implemented processes may lack key steps that make you unique, relevant, or valuable to your customer base.
Conversely, some elements of the current process may not work very well or might have lost value due to changes across the landscape. Economic stability, technology, demographics, and human capital change over time and can adversely impact operations if the organization does not remain in step with those changes. Listening intently and collaborating closely with stakeholders will allow you to identify the tasks and actions that need adjustment in order to drive business success.
Analyze your current process against your goals.
Get back to the basics. What is the overarching goal or purpose of the process?
Does the current process lead to meeting the plan, or could it, perhaps in its current state, detract from the overriding goal? If you find that the process does not complement the overarching objective, then be bold and eliminate, enhance, or change the process. Repeating this analysis will become necessary when developing a new standard operating procedure.
Few people like change; however, since our expectations or goals change over time, we must be willing to change our methods or processes to meet ever-changing expectations. Resist the urge to change for the sake of change; instead, make changes that add value, reduce risks, and complement the overarching expectations of the business.
Develop detailed plans for changes, whether processes will be eliminated or enhanced.
Prior to making changes, detailed plans must be put into place. Changes must be analyzed and vetted by front-end team members and cross-functional stakeholders to ensure completeness. When cross-functional teams are involved, the resulting process will be more robust and more quickly adopted. You will, in effect, have champions throughout the organization that can promote the changes in advance of their implementation.
Communicate the changes and implement them.
The best-designed process is of little value if it is not communicated effectively to the users. An essential element of a new standard operating procedure includes the communication and implementation strategy. Consider when and how to release the new standard operating procedure. The release process will likely depend on the urgency of change, the stakeholders involved, and the nature of the standard operating procedure. Making changes is communicated electronically through email or intranet sites. Other changes are communicated during face-to-face meetings. Still others, may be posted for review. Regardless of the method, communication must occur before the change happens. The communication should also include the implementation date or schedule to ensure that all stakeholders are aligned and coordinated to drive the success of the change.
Review the process.
Reviewing and measuring a process must be planned during the design phase of the new standard operating procedure. Facilitate open communication between all parties involved, including those developing or enhancing the process and those actually executing the process. Involve the voice of the customer where applicable. Promptly correct any less-than-desired outcomes to minimize flaws or disruptions. Be sure to communicate any process amendments as soon as possible.
The human capital in your organization play an essential role in leading process improvement initiatives. Leverage your talented team members to identify what is not working well and what needs adjustment to ensure high productivity, efficiency, profitability, and customer satisfaction. By listening to the team, you can also remove barriers to success, improve team culture, and by extension, job satisfaction.
Utilize the five steps outlined in this article to implement a systematic process to deliver continuous improvement. Lead with well-documented standard operating procedures and continually monitor for consistent desired results.
Check out the following links for more information on using or obtaining standard operating procedures for your business.
Best Practices for Standard Operating Procedures
7 Best Practices For Standard Operating Procedures
How To Write Standard Operating Procedures