It’s really easy to avoid making process changes in a company that feels like “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” After all, dedicating time and effort to making business changes can be expensive. However, the reality in today’s business environment is that process improvement and process automation are necessary to stay competitive. Companies that don’t change will risk being left behind.
It’s not just because the change will make things better. It’s because documenting and optimizing business processes can help your bottom line.
Most companies these days run pretty Lean. That means everyone in the company more than likely carries a pretty heavy load of responsibilities. Easing that load by documenting processes and automating as many processes as possible is a huge win.
If manual processes are slowing you down at work, check out the Process Improvement Playbook: Overcoming the Hurdles of Manual Processes in the Workplace.
So that begs the question, “Where do you start?”
One of the best and easiest places to start is with those processes that are repeatable.
Now, you might be thinking, “But aren’t all processes repeatable?” And the answer is, “Yes, they should be.” However, not all repeatable processes are documented and ultimately automated, if possible, to reduce the possibility for error, streamline work, and improve productivity.
That’s where the work begins.
The first step is to identify the current processes that are repeatable. The processes that easily come to mind are:
However, it’s highly likely there are plenty more repeatable processes in your company. Digging them out will take some time, but will pay off in the long run.
The best way to find out what processes might be candidates is to go to the source: the people who do the work. You’ll want to do this in an organized fashion by breaking down the approach by departments. Decide what department will be first and then move forward through each department from there.
Once the department has been determined, there are a couple of options for uncovering those repeatable processes that exist in your company.
Individual interviews. A lot can be uncovered by conducting individual interviews with the people who are doing the work. This would also include observing them as they’re completing the work so you have opportunities to ask why they do something a certain way or perform a specific step. The problem with this approach is that it’s very time intensive, so you’ll need to weigh that in your decision making.
Focus groups. Creating a group setting to ferret out processes is another option. Using a structured method to first identify repeatable processes and then determine what steps are taken to accomplish the work can create a good foundation for process documentation. One of the benefits of this method is that people will often leverage what others have said to ensure there is clarity of the process, and it can also reveal where there are parts of a process that are done differently by different people.
Whatever method you use, it’s worthwhile to allow participants time to prepare in advance. Make sure to ask them to at least jot down the things they do on a regular basis – every day, every week, every month. That way, you’ll have a better chance at uncovering what’s important.