How Do I Improve My Business Processes? (Part 2)

How Do I Improve My Business Processes?
November 19, 2017
How Do I Improve My Business Processes? (Part 3)
December 4, 2017

How Do I Improve My Business Processes? (Part 2)

Seeking solutions

Solving process problems

In the last post I covered the first three steps of the ten step process for improving your business processes. In this post I will cover the the next three steps.

Step 4: Define key external inputs and suppliers

Once you have established the boundaries for your process, stay outside those boundaries and identify the key inputs—the inputs that have the highest impact on the process. Inputs are defined as “things or information that are required to perform an activity.” They include the actual input, such as materials, data, procedures, equipment, instructions, etc.

At the same time identify the suppliers of each input. These are the sources of input from outside the process that give something to you so that you can operate the process.

In this step, these inputs and suppliers are simply listed, later we will identify requirements and metrics for them. There are a few things to remember when completing this step:

  • Remember to remain external to the process for now
  • Avoid the temptation to define requirements and internal problems
  • Brainstorm with the process team to detemine which inputs are key

Step 5: Identify key external outputs and customers

The next step for the process owner and team is to list the key outputs and who they go to (customers). Outputs are “things and information” that are the end result of an activity. They include the actual output (product, report, information, etc.). Key outputs are outputs that provide the greatest volume, have the strictest requirements, and are most important to the customer.

At the same time customers, or users of the ouput must be identified. They can be  other deparments, individuals, or categories. In this step, these outputs and customers are simply listed, later we will identify requirements and metrics for them. There are a few things to reme,ber when completing this step:

  • Remember to remain external to the process for now
  • Avoid the temptation to define requirements and internal problems
  • Brainstorm with the process team to determine which outputs are key

Step 6: Document the flow of activities within the boundaries of the process

Once key inputs and outputs have been identified, the next step is to move within the process boundaries and document ( narrative form) the the flow of activities that transform the inputs into outputs. This step represents preliminary documentation of the process within the boundaries. You can use a SIPOC chart to complete this step.

Start on the left side of the SIPOC chart with the initial input and supplier you have identified. Proceed left to right, listing the activity that works on the initial input, the output, and who gets it. Then continue through the process and list, in sequential order, each series of inputs-activities-outputs that are part of the process. It is important in creating the SIPOC that you be specific, be sure to include action verbs and nouns.

Some words of caution:

  • Continue to resist discussing requirements
  • Resist discussing metrics
  • Resist quick solutions. Save your solutions for later

( In the next post I will cover constructing the process map/flow chart and listing requirements for key inputs and outputs)

Willie Carter began his career as a paint chemist at a Akzo Nobel subsidiary in suburban Chicago where his love for manufacturing began. Over the years his career has taken him to work with numerous SMEs to Fortune 500 companies in assisting them with optimizing their operations and administrative functions through continuous process improvement techniques. Carter is currently serving as president of Quantum Associates, Inc, which specializes in optimizing business processes to minimize costs, accelerate cycle times and improve efficiency. The company’s overarching goal is to help clients do more with less. Carter holds a BA in Chemistry as well as an MBA. He holds certifications as a Lean Sensei, Manager of Quality and Organizational Excellence and ISO 9000 Lead Assessor. He is also the author of Process Improvement for Administrative Departments: The Key to Internal Customer Satisfaction.

He can be reached at wcarter@quantumassocinc.com or by phone – 847-919-6127.

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