The operational environment is increasingly complex due to technological advancements, customer expectations, regulatory restrictions, and changing economic cycles. When combined with the emphasized need for improved efficiency and operational results, senior leaders are under tremendous pressure to adapt to changes and meet expectations.
Your business processes are the foundation of your business and provide a clear roadmap to help you meet organizational objectives and realize business outcomes. The goal is to move your business from point A to point B as efficiently as possible, with your people driving the process. Business processes, therefore, are the maps that guide the driver and/or people to where they are going. Without a clear plan to give direction and provide the methods and practices on how to guide your employees, how do you and they know where to go? Are they heading in the right direction? Are you running your organization as effectively as possible? All operations need to understand where they are today and where they want to go – a critical pillar to improving organizational performance.
The Engine Room business process improvement cycle follows a 5-step method that is designed to not only improve an organization’s critical business processes, but also educate, engage, and involve personnel in the process. This supports buy-in, ownership, and eventual implementation.
- Understanding the Need for Change: The Engine Room’s first step is to understand the need for change through an Operational Diagnostic. The diagnostic identifies, measures, and assesses the specific root causes of challenges affecting all aspects of operational performance and compliance. This critical stage supports the prioritization of process improvement opportunities, addresses what we will accomplish, and reviews how your critical processes are impacting your organization, resources, and stakeholders.
- Review the Current Process: Once the prioritization stage is complete and we have identified which processes are going to be improved, we review and examine the current processes in place. This not only creates realistic improvement objectives, but ensures efforts are deployed to high value targets, reducing unnecessary time, energy, and duplication of effort. This step addresses a handful of the following questions:
- What specifically in the process is broken?
- Which steps in the process are creating pain points?
- Which steps will require the most time and effort to complete?
- Which steps cause the most delays that can affect any area of the organization?
- Are there any steps that cause costs and/or resources to go up?
- Are there any steps that cause quality to go down?
- Commitment and Support: It is essential to provide support to senior management that creates awareness and complete clarity surrounding the need for change and the eventual impacts on the organization. Management as a whole must be able to answer the questions of “Why?” and “What’s in it for me?” from the employee’s perspective, as process improvement can be time and resource intensive. Further, clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and decision-making authority across the different levels of leadership ensure management supports and sustains major change initiatives through to completion.
- Create Improvement Strategy: Once the process analysis segment is completed, we move to the actual Process Improvement phase. Here, we address what the process should be and why. We then design how it should be improved, addressing any financial and resource implications. Realistic and measurable objectives are set that align with your overall strategic goals, and proven process improvement methodologies are used to anchor new process results. These include:
- Lean Six Sigma
- DRIVE Problem Solving Methodology
- Process Base-lining – Building, Classifying, and Comparisons
- Process Optimization – Mission Critical Operations
- Process Streamlining – Waste, Error, and Defect Reduction
- Continuous Improvement Frameworks
- In-house Improvement Program Development
- Process mapping, flowcharting, field analysis, and cause and effect diagrams
- Implementation and Execution: We find that in over 90% of our company’s engagements, performance improvement occurs at the interface of people, business process, and execution – with 58% of program barriers attributed to the difficulty in changing behaviours and leadership capability (KPMG 2010). In organizations today, the human factor has emerged as the biggest cause for the failure of change and performance improvement initiatives (Gilley et al, 2009).
Once process improvement plans are solidified, the focus will inevitably shift to implementation. This is where the “rubber hits the road”. Successful implementations require well-designed action plans and everyone, from frontline employees to support groups to executives, operating effectively in their respective roles. The Engine Room specializes in this phase of the improvement process, coaching at all levels of the organization as required. The implementation phase typically includes:
- On-site coaching of middle managers and frontline leaders to support the application and anchoring of the right behaviours needed to execute the new processes and methods
- Re-enforcing management skills that include properly providing feedback, soliciting input, engaging employees, clarifying expectations, and communicating effectively
- Improving the effectiveness of compliance and incident root cause investigations, and avoiding common pitfalls, such as a “rush to judgment” and inappropriate blame
- Developing rigor around compliance processes, such as compliance audits and corrective actions
- Effectively cascading communication from the organization to respective departmental groups, and vice versa
- Proactively dealing with performance issues and challenging circumstances
Business performance is largely measured by cost, productivity, engagement, quality, customer satisfaction, and ROI. With the increased pressures of today’s economy and the need to do more with less (e.g. reduced budgets and resources), process excellence is a key pillar to improving efficiencies across departments and business units. Whether reviewing and improving current processes or putting processes in place where nothing currently exists, the effectiveness of an organization’s process improvement initiatives is critical. At The Engine Room, we direct focus to not only improving your business critical processes, but truly understanding:
- Where your processes are today and where they need to go
- Whether you are running your organization as effectively as possible to meet operational goals
- Whether your people have the well-defined guides to know where to go to meet organizational objectives
- How you are going to move your business from point A to point B as efficiently as possible with your people driving the process
- Whether your business process improvement initiatives are aligned to the organization’s strategic business objectives
- The monetary contribution of the business process initiative to the organization
- The decision-making process regarding the continued roll-out of business process initiatives to other parts of the organization
- The overall benefits of business process improvement initiatives on business outcomes
How does your organization determine where it does and doesn’t need process improvement? How do you decide which operations need one-time fixing and which need continual attention? At The Engine Room, we can support you in answering these questions and many more.