“Why are you doing that?”
“Because we’ve always done it that way.”
If that is the answer you’re getting, it might be time to look at process improvement.
Improving processes may seem like a simple thing to do—identify what you are doing now; what changes need to be made; and then make the changes. Unfortunately, process improvement is more complicated than that. And, it becomes particularly more complex if the process you want to change overlaps into other departments.
Identifying the steps in the process is only the first part. You need to look at each step. Does it make sense? Is there a better way to do it? Who owns it? How does it connect with other parts of the process? The second part is designing a new process that works. This also includes getting input from all those involved in and affected by the process.
Not sure where to begin? Start with the areas that are the most paper-intensive or seem to take the most amount of time. One organization analyzed their process for receiving cheques. The findings were that each cheque passed through 13 different hands before it actually made it to the bank. Sometimes the changes are obvious, but other times it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. When one works in something day after day, or just doesn’t have the time—any time—to really focus on improving processes, it may be time to get some help.
Process improvement specialists actually map out your processes in detail; analyze the various steps; identify the key issues. They can present options that will work best for your organization and can provide recommendations for best practices.
When looking for a consulting firm to assist you, be sure and do your homework. First of all make sure they have a successful track record of providing performance improvement services. Get references from other clients who have had this type of work done in their organizations. Also ensure they have relevant experience. You are paying for their expertise. You don’t need to pay them to get up to speed in your industry.
Determine what type of services you really want and need. An “audit” will identify all the issues, whether it is for one department or your entire organization. What you will get is a detailed report of areas that need to be improved and recommendations for changes. The reports should be very thorough and comprehensive. However, they can also be somewhat daunting—“Where do I start?” It’s great to know where all the issues are, but you need to ensure that you have the resources to implement the changes.
An alternative (and often more cost-effective) approach may be to tackle one area at a time. For example, you may want to look at improving your processes between HR and Payroll or opening client files. This can be a more manageable way to tackle the issues and see faster tangible results.
One organization looked at their recruitment processes. This included everything from posting the job, through orientation. The results identified that concluded that their orientation package contained close to 50 separate pieces of information and was costing them over $65 each. By streamlining this process alone, they gained considerable savings, not only in time to produce the packages, but in production costs as well.
Some consulting firms may be able to provide services to help you implement the changes rather than just identify them. An external third-party can often be helpful in negotiating change with others and in assisting to educate users when implementing the changes.
Whether It makes your work life easier, your systems more efficient or even improves your bottom line, embarking on the path to process improvement will always yield positive results.
Contact us if you have more questions about process improvement or another HR issue.
This article was first published in TLOMA Today.