How Do I Improve My Business Processes? (Part 3)

How Do I Improve My Business Processes? (Part 2)
November 27, 2017
Value-added activities
What is Value-Adding?
December 10, 2017

How Do I Improve My Business Processes? (Part 3)

Seeking solutions

Solving process problems

This is the final post for How Do I Improve my Business Processes?  it explains steps 7-10 of the improvement process.

Step 7:  Construct process map/flow chart

Use the narrative documentation created in step 6 to develop your process map to visually arrange the flow of activities in the process. The map should depict how inputs enter the process, undergo various types of actions, and exit the process as outputs to some other process or ultimate end customer. There are several advantages to process maps that will make it easier for you in visualizing your work:

  • You will get a better understanding of the importance of each individual part of the process andhow each fits into the whole
  • You will get a sense of the interdependence of the process
  • You will get a framework to look at process requirements, measurements,and control

One of the best way to create a process map is to get your process team and map the process using “Post-it” notes on large sheets of flip chart paper mounted on a wall in an office or meeting room. You shuld allow a few days for people working the process to review and validate the map to determine if steps are missing or are in the correct sequence. Once the review is completed you can document the using mapping/flow chart software.

Step 8: List requirements for key inputs and key outputs

Once the activities have been defined , with their key inputs and key outputs, the next step is to define input and output requirements for each activity in the process. Requirements are defined as “what the customer wants, needs, and/or expect as a measure of the process.

Requirements may be considered the single most critical aspect of the quality focus. When people are asked to “do it right the first time,” the requirements are the “it.” They are standards against which we measure performance. Any nonconformance to a requirement must be considered a defect.

There are at least five characteristics of requirements. Remember the appropriate quality characteristics from the customer’ viewpoint should be used in defining requirements. Here you have the opportunity to list requirements that are:

  • Valid
  • Realisitc
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Understood and agreed upon by all concerned

Step 9: Assure there are appropriate measurements for each requirement

Now that you have listed specific requirements for key inputs and outputs of each step in the process, you make sure there are appropriate metrics for each. This is part of process control, which involves establishing control checkpoints and emphasizing existing metrics or developing new ones.These measurements are geared to determining if your process is meeting customer requirements (effectiveness) and as lean as it can be (efficiency).

It is particulary important to establish clear measurements at the boundaries between various functions in a cross-functional process. It is at these interfaces, rather than at those between steps within a single organizational function. That a breakdown in the process is most likely to occur. This happens because the lines of authority and responsibility become vague.

In this step you refer back to the process map that you created. On that map, indicate where you currently have metrics in place, i.e., incoming inspection, outgoing inspection.  Specify each step/activity being reviewed list the input and output requirements and indicate the metrics for each.You may determine that a requirement doesn’t have a measurement, if so then do not list any.

You follow this by answering the question: Are new and/or different measurements needed, and if so, what are they? If your answer is “no,” then you are finished with themeasurements. If you answer “yes,” then indicate what new and/or different measurements will be needed. Finally, answer the question of how these new or different measurements will better conformance to the requirements.

Step 10: Analyze the process by asking the eight key questions

Once you have documented the process, now it is time to analyze it and determine how it can be made more effective and efficient. At this point, the following key questions can be asked of all parts of the process:

  1. Does each activity/task add value?
  2. Can the activity/task be eliminated?
  3. Can the activity/task be completed in less time/
  4. Can the activityu/task be completed at less cost?
  5. Could another area/person better perform the activity/task?
  6. Can the activity/task be simplified, reduced, or changed?
  7. Are appropriate customer requirements in place?
  8. Are appropriate controls inplace, i.e., measurements?

Once you have answered these questions, the process owner and the team are now able to make the process more effective by assuring that appropriate requirements and metrics are in place. They will be able to make it more efficient by eliminating those activities/tasks that do not add value.

After you have completed this 10 step process you have laid the groundwork for improving the process. There will be some “just do its” improvements you can make immediately, but you should develop a long-term process improvement plan and commit to making the improvements.

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