Business Process Improvement

When you need to improve an existing  process, first take a look and see if the process has been over complicated. Do not start by adding extra layers onto a broken process in the hope of fixing it.

Increases in Complexity leads to stress, miscommunications, costly errors, poor customer service and greater overall costs.

Many organisations add extra layers of complexity to their processes in order to ensure that the right things get done the right way. What is worse is that these seem to grow over time. Every time a mistake is made another layer of complexity is added to the process. When looking at process improvement this is where you will find the low hanging fruit.

Perhaps it is a result of overthinking the process

Perhaps with too much data to make the decisions people end up with analysis paralysis.

So where would you start to unravel this?

Ask your employees to identify any processes they think are over complicated, even better if you can do this with new employees during onboarding. Get your staff to look at existing documentation to ensure it is up to date or discarded.

When a new employee asks “Why are you doing that?” and the answer is  “this is how we’ve always done it.” They may have uncovered  a potential issue.

A possible reason for this answer is when a process was never updated to match current reality. This is an example of the documented process being static while the business changed around it, and your employees have been adapting as necessary to continue getting their jobs done, but never updated the process manual. I bet you can think of examples of this happening.

Perhaps the documented process was just too complex to be followed, so employees started improvising or perhaps not enough analysis was done when someone documented the process, so it was flawed from the start.

Why is this a problem?

When new hires are brought into the team and begin reading the process documentation, They internalize the official process rather than what’s actually being done, and now you have a discrepancy in how different team members are doing the same job. The old process may even be incorrect due to other process changes..

I talked about process analysis above. This is actually a deeper skill than many people realise, yet it is key for identifying gaps or over complexity. Gaps occur when steps in a business process lack documentation, or when multiple people believe another party to be responsible for a particular stage of the process.

Other reasons that a process may get over complicated:

Procrastination

“I’ve got so much to do, I don’t know where to start”! This can lead to procrastination as you complicate things in your own mind. You need to step back and focus on one issue and tell yourself “This doesn’t have to be complicated”.

Involving too many people in determining the best procedure

Some decisions can be made without everyone’s involvement. Involving too many people in your decision-making naturally complicates the process and slows it down. Some people become concerned about leaving people out of decisions and feel pressure to include people who really don’t need to be involved.

Creating to many choices in a process

People prefer fewer choices which actually aids decision-making.

Micromanaging

Micromanagers may be unaware of their own behavior, but micromanaging actually slows down projects and adds extra layers of communication. Allow employees to think for themselves.

Trying to prove how smart you are

When you know a lot about a specific topic, you have a tendency to try and share too much information and then unintentionally create some confusion. Focus only on what’s most relevant.

 

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