Processes That Really Work

cubi3Processes surround everything we do in business but how often do you find that the process you are expected to follow just doesn’t makes sense because it’s too complicated or simply wrong?  If your answer is ‘yes’ then you are not alone, many people get really frustrated with inappropriate processes or ones that just don’t make sense.

If we look at what makes a business process useful we can perhaps start to identify why some just don’t make the grade.

  • Appropriate – a process needs to be appropriate for what it’s intended to achieve.  It needs to be defined to a level that the majority of people who have to use it can understand what to do and NOT down to the nth degree with loads of unnecessary detail.  At the same time if there are obvious stages that need to be understood then include them and don’t wrap them up into one item that might be miss-understood.
  • Understandable – touched on above but well worth bringing out separately.  A process that works only works because it’s appropriate to the needs of the job and is fully understood by those who operate it and are touched by it, e.g. customers.  If employees can’t really understand why parts of a process are as they are then they can’t be expected to explain to customers and suppliers why things are as they are.

So, if good processes are appropriate and understandable, how are they developed?  Use the expertise you have within your organization to develop or re-fresh your processes, after all your employees are the ones who know their pitfalls and the ways round so that things get done regardless of process – yes, this really does happen!  By all means bring in external assistance to help facilitate the development of processes and input suggestions but it’s your organization that needs to decide what a process needs to be and own it, not an external consultant.

‘good processes are appropriate and understandable’

Once your new process is captured and people who need to know about it have been suitably informed and/or trained (the process will fail if your employees don’t know things have changed) then it’s time to try it out in anger.  You may have trailed it and used simulations but don’t be surprised if the first time it’s used for real things don’t work as anticipated.  Not to worry about this, just build in a little time to refine until the process works as smoothly as can be expected, in other words the process is appropriate.

Of course nothing lasts forever and as other elements of your organization and business environment change it’s highly likely that your process will lose it’s appropriateness and need amending.  Don’t wait until you find out about this through a failure or complaint, build in regular process reviews, say annually just to check that all is still well.

‘build in regular process reviews’

Oh, and don’t forget that if you trust your people they will still ensure that your business operates seamlessly in the eyes of customers even if your processes aren’t quite right.  What you want is for those self same people to feel confident in coming forward and saying they bent the process for the good of the organization and the process needs to be modified accordingly.


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