Businesses revolve around process documentation and improvement. Your organizational processes, along with your overall mission, may indeed be the backbone of your success. Therefore, it is critical that your teams continually focus on improving their techniques to meet your goals and drive business success.
Your business will likely suffer without a tactical plan to improve the process. Technology, innovation, and customer demand is ever evolving. Competitors are continually rising to meet consumer needs, and you must keep pace or, even better, outpace the competition. Otherwise, you risk being left behind.
Critical Thinking, Experience, and Common Sense
Critical thinking involves the ability to build a logical connection between ideas and facts. A good process will leverage critical thinking, experience, and common sense to produce organized and efficient methods to complete tasks. Employees with considerable tenure often include common sense steps in a process, although these steps may not be so apparent to a newly hired or promoted employee. Conversely, complex, intricate components of an operation result from critical thinking. Those components are likely drawn from ideas or concepts developed over time with testing and scrutiny before acceptance.
An idea that has undergone extensive process documentation and improvement. As we consider this example, think of how a commonsense component requires more knowledge to be helpful.
In the late 1800s, the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, became fascinated with toy helicopters and gliders. Others were working on the process of developing flying machines; however, success continued to elude those inventors. A news report of the death of German glider and pioneer Otto Lilienthal, due to a glider crash in August 1896, marked the beginning of Orville and Wilbur’s profound interest in flight.
Lilienthal and others recognized the need to account for the wind to enable flight. The experimenters aimed to develop flying machines by incorporating a perceived common sense of stability, believing that the aircraft would tend to fly a straight and level course unless the pilot intervened and changed the altitude or direction. However, the Wright brothers began working diligently to understand how wind facilitates flight with the design of their flying equipment.
They began experimenting with kites, gliders, and a human-occupied air-flying machine.
Imagine the excitement in 1903 when Orville and Wilbur Wright changed the world with the first flight. It lasted 12 seconds, reached eight feet, and went a distance of about 120 feet. Were they satisfied with this remarkable success? Hardly. They continued to work on the process by adjusting materials, designs, locations, and conditions. As others got involved, they built upon what was known as a shared sense of aviation and added improvements utilizing critical thinking.
The result of the process improvement efforts of Orville, Wilbur, and others? Astronomical; no pun intended. Today, we casually book airplane flights and travel the world, giving little thought to the fact that a Boeing 737 weighing as much as 175,000 pounds lifts off the ground and rises to a ceiling of 37,000 feet.
Yet and still, innovation continues. Due to increased environmental concerns, the development of commercial electric planes is now in progress, and major airline companies are making orders.
None of this would be remotely possible if process improvement had not been a constant feature in the development of aviation.
Headwinds and Tailwinds
In our example, we noted how the Wright brothers used critical thinking to invent a flying machine that would work with the wind to their advantage. So how can your business account for the “wind” that challenges your organization and utilize it to optimize and improve your business instead of creating barriers to success?
While you may not be reinventing air travel, your business no doubt faces headwinds. These headwinds are the negative factors that may impede your business growth, exacerbate cost controls, reduce production standards, and lower your consumers’ satisfaction with your products or services. How will you respond?
In our aviation example, what wind direction does the plane take off? A tailwind or a headwind? Common sense might suggest a tailwind is needed or desired. It results in the wind pushing the plane up and away. However, that is generally not the case. Pilots’ preference is to take off and land into the wind. Why? The pilot’s reasoning is based upon proven facts found in physics and aerodynamics. Taking off into the wind creates an upward thrust, allowing the plane to become airborne at a lower speed and reducing fuel consumption. After takeoff, the pilot will adjust the path to take advantage of a tailwind to push the plane along its journey with lesser fuel consumption. The headwind assists the pilot by moving the plane back when landing in the headwind. It helps by reducing the speed of the aircraft and supports a safer landing with softer braking.
Take advantage of headwinds against your business by being ready to mitigate negative impacts.
First, you must know what the headwinds are. Then determine at what speed or pace and direction they are approaching. Finally, if you have faced a similar headwind in the past, how did you respond, and what was the result?
There are a variety of methodologies used to execute process improvement.
Some of the most widely known and accepted are:
Six Sigma – DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control)
This method is used to improve upon existing processes focusing on minimizing defects:
–Define the opportunity
–Measure the performance of the current process
–Analyze the present approach; determine what is not working and the root cause
–Improve by addressing the root cause or what isn’t working
–Control improvements to the process, put guard rails in place to protect the gains from digressing
Total Quality Management (TQM)
The main goal of TQM is to improve processes that directly impact the customers and decrease inefficiencies, leading to greater customer satisfaction.
The principle of the Lean strategy is to discover what is making your business or processes inefficient and how to deliver better value to your customer.
Workflow processes are examined, tested, and developed into a continual improvement culture.
This is a term from Japanese business philosophy, rooted in changing for the better or continuous improvement.
It’s a cross-functional approach to process improvement, requiring collaboration from top to bottom.
The CEO, along with line workers, proactively work together to implement improvements and collectively drive continual process improvement by understanding the 5 W’s (Who, What, Why, When, and Where) and the H (How).
Choose the methodology that works best for your organization. The key is consistency and follow-through. Instill periodic checks and reviews to ensure timely adjustments and scalability in technology and demand.
One definition suggests that a tailwind is a wind having the same general direction as a course of movement, such as in the case of an aircraft. In business, “tailwinds” describes a situation or condition that will increase growth, revenues, or profits. Organizations should frequently take the pulse of the organization, not only to find out what needs to be improved, but to determine what the teams should continue doing in order to exploit business success.
Check the voice of the customer often to determine what they especially like about your product or service. And check with front-line workers to determine what about their role adds to their enjoyment. Continually exploiting these items will ensure that you keep customers and employees happy.
What is Process Documentation and Improvement?
It involves analyzing what is working versus what is not, digging into what is preventing or impeding processes, and implementing steps to drive efficiency and productivity. Process improvement involves people, processes, and tools.
Focusing on continuous improvement will allow your business to soar with the tailwind throughout your business journeys, like modern-day benefactors of the work of Orville and Wilbur Wright. As conditions for growth, profit, and customer satisfaction occur in the business environment, your focus on improved processes will provide the maximum gain.
Still need more convincing on why SOPs your right for your business? Click here for 6 reasons why you need SOPs!