“Our processes operate perfectly and efficiently.” APRIL FOOLS!
Welcome to April. April 1st, to be specific. For those that know me well, April Fool’s Day is one of my least favorite days of the year. Don’t get me wrong – I love to have a good laugh and a good time – but pranks, hoaxes, elaborate schemes to scare or embarrass people?
Nope. Not my thing.
However, here’s an April Fool’s joke I am sure everyone can laugh at: You are a CIO or a VP for a college or university and you hear someone say, “Our people and processes operate perfectly and efficiently.”
That’s right. No one can legitimately say that with a straight face. Ever.
Some of you may think you are doing things as fast and efficiently as possible. And others think you have the worst processes known to man. I’ve worked with hundreds of organizations across many different industries, and I can say one thing for sure – everyone who thinks they are great can always get better, and everyone who thinks they are terrible are not nearly as bad as they think they are. Frankly, everyone is in the middle somewhere.
Six steps to fast, accurate processes
Here’s my blueprint whenever I work with customers on process efficiency:
- Start with the end
Know where you want to go. And why you want to get there. There’s no reason to streamline a process that brings no value.
2. Now locate the beginning
Once you know the end game, understand how it begins. If you ask five people where a process begins, you’ll likely get five different answers. None is right or wrong.
Use that as perspective on where you want to mark the beginning of your process review. If the delta between beginning and end is too large, you won’t succeed.
3. Map out every possible path from beginning to end
Don’t focus only on the ideal path, but think about obscure paths, too. The obscure paths shed light on the situation.
Why would a process possibly follow that path? What are the variables that lead to that path? What do these paths have in common? Answering these questions will lead you in the right direction.
4. Identify the bottlenecks
Where can the process get stuck? Determine an unacceptable bottleneck time, depending on the size of the process. This might be 10 minutes or two days, depending on what you’re looking at.
For argument sake, let’s say 10 percent. Any one step that takes more than 10 percent of the overall process length – that’s a bottleneck.
5. Determine which bottlenecks to fix
This is the toughest step. The easy answer is to fix all bottlenecks, but in reality, this often isn’t possible. There’s usually something in the way – maybe a certain person or department that you cannot speed up no matter what you do. Or maybe there is a fix, but you deem it too costly for the benefit it will provide.
Therefore, pick the bottlenecks with the most impact for the most reasonable cost.
6. Implement the fix
This might be a total overhaul of a process, or just a slight tweak as a result of your process evaluation. Whatever it is, be sure you measure the success of the change. Know the time and cost before and the time and cost afterwards. And then share this with others. Celebrate this success!
Then do it all over again.
Now you have brought successful change to your institution. Who is the fool now?
(This blog post was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.)