Improving your operations is one of the key elements of maximizing your competitive edge. Focusing on a process-based approach to reimagining your internal and external processes can transform your business.
This is more than just tweaking a couple of workflows. In many cases, it means a new, broader, look at your processes. It means empowering your front-end staff to make decisions that improve their tasks. It means changing the way outcomes are rewarded. By adopting an innovative culture, you add an emphasis on personal accountability, teamwork, and customer and staff satisfaction. This transformative change can lead to a change to staff roles and responsibilities.
Redesigning your processes and operations can be both a simple and a complex endeavour. At its core, it all comes down to planning and what your firm can do. The plan for the change should have specific features that show how it will run on the shop floor. This includes a clear indicator of the process map, the required skills of the operators, and the performance indicators that it will generate.
The way a task is done should always be considered when designing a process. That is, the function needs a form but the form must influence the function. Keep the operators in mind while looking at the process tasks, the order, where the tasks are done, under what conditions, and how precise the result must be. The human element should always be within the plan.
A crucial part is how the information is delivered to each business unit. One of your goals is cutting down corporate silos, or tribalism, and improving cross-functional integration. Some managers will have difficulties with this, perhaps due to the power that tribal leadership gives them or they have become too accustomed to the way things are. Other times, the issue stems from confused messaging from the top, with unclear direction as to what they should concentrate on or non-committal responses.
Your firm must be able to support operators and managers during the transition while also holding the correct parties accountable for change errors. And then, it must be able to quickly update the changes to a more positive result.
A good organization can handle and design simple process solutions to complex problems. Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight or even in one planning session. Process redesign often requires multiple rounds of changes, reviews, updates, and more changes with, for example PDCA or the Kaizen process.
Certain parts can be aided by systems and methods, like Quality Management Software or Six Sigma, or upskilling and other training. During your operation design (and redesign) be aware of what non-value add activities you can remove while taking operator capabilities into account.
Designing processes requires accountability. This means that any actions taken should have an owner. This is usually a senior executive, since operational changes often affect operations in other business units. Having an owner can also help with redefining metrics. When improving a process or implementing a new operational model upon an existing one, old job definitions, skills, and hierarchies can often become obsolete. This should be actioned quickly to ensure that staff rewards and near-sighted goals do not take away from the intended long-term change.
A culture of constant improvement that involves redefining internal processes can provide great benefits to your firm. While the work of improving operations and processes is not as eye catching as that of mergers and acquisitions, using a LEAN methodology to cut DOWNTIME waste by improving your processes has better long-term returns while providing your firm with a difficult to copy advantage over your competitors.