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Business Process Improvement

Some improvement ideas under the heading Working smarter with People

Review all aspects of the way team members interact, typically using the following logic.

1. Involve team personnel, talk to team personnel

Never loose sight of the fact that team personnel have an enormous contribution to make in terms of creating opportunities to improve the process and manage process risks. These opportunities will more readily be offered through dialogue rather than via email or event a formal reporting system.

Involving and talking with team members will also improve morale and an individual’s performance. Process Owners, Managers and Supervisors should remember that communication is a 2-way process - transmit and receive. If we have our transmit button stuck in the 'on' position we are not communicating.

2. Review team decision-making process (empowerment)

Make sure that team personnel understand the extent of their authority and where to go when they do not have the appropriate level of authority. Ensure that the team involve stakeholders in decision making when appropriate.

When the authorisation of decisions cuts across several departments make sure that all signatories are still relevant and that there are no regular bottlenecks in the process.

Remember that empowering employees to make decisions is not the abdication of responsibility and authority and that it is most effective within a really sound organisational learning culture.

Empowerment is defined as the process of enabling or authorising an individual to think, behave, take action, and control work and decision making in autonomous ways. (Source: http://humanresources.about.com)

Ideally empowerment is a two way process; an employee volunteers to take action and control work and decision making in autonomous ways and the manager or supervisor accepts that employee is competent to take this authority. There may, of course, be those situations where an employee is evidently ready to be empowered but is a bit reticent and the manager or supervisor needs to encourage the process.

3. Encourage team members to take ownership of their ideas

When team personnel come up with opportunities to improve the process or introduce risk management activities encourage them to develop the ideas with others, find the optimum solution and fully evaluate the resource and risk implications. This will encourage others to come forward with their ideas for improvement.

4. Listen to your customers at as many interfaces as practical, they like it. Invite them to your organisation!

Listening to customers provides a significant source of opportunities to improve the performance of a process and also makes your customers feel consulted and involved. It may also pre-empt a complaint.

Consider all genuine customer feedback, particularly genuine customer complaints as free consultancy. It may well be that it would cost you dearly for a consultant to provide this information.

5. Review the competencies of process team members regularly

Ensure that team members' competencies are adequate for their tasks and activities and close any gaps that are apparent.

Always remember that if process team members are too competent this may also present problems.

6. Consider ‘on the job training’

There is a tendency to think of training as ‘sending personnel on specific training courses’. This may be an expensive alternative and there may well be the in-house expertise available to organise on-the-job training, which has the added advantage that personnel can apply any knowledge they acquire in the environment in which it is to be used. The repetitive application of a new skill is a very effective way to master the skill.

7. Encourage all team personnel to use time wisely

There is a tendency for personnel to react to the most immediate problem that is presented to them either via their email, telephone or at meetings.

Create a culture that,

a) questions the priority of need,

b) values the allocation of tasks to the appropriate person

c) understands the need to notify the effected parties of the timescale of action being taken

d) understands the need to allocate additional resources under special circumstances

e) values others’ time.

Manage meetings effectively, ensure prompt arrival of attendees, have a clear understanding of the purpose of the meeting and take minutes by hand during the meeting if this is more cost effective than typed minutes or more effective than having no written record of the decisions reached.

8. Identify any conflict within the process team and resolve

Conflict between team personnel can be a very destructive use of individuals’ emotional energy. Team personnel should be using their emotional energy for innovation and creativity for the benefit of the process and should not using it in conflict with others. Identify any existing or potential areas of conflict and resolve before they become too disruptive and difficult to resolve.

9. Personnel responsibilities and authorities at process stages

Make sure that personnel responsibilities and authorities are clearly defined at all process stages. Refer to the article on 'Process definition' which advocates that at each stage we clearly define:

If necessary include a stage instruction that provides more detail.

10. Check whether personal targets work against customer needs

Inappropriate targets that do not take account of customer need result in people focusing on the target at the expense of customer needs.

Consider the reported case of the Post Office measuring the speed at which postmen walked when delivering mail. To walk at the target speed postmen were not waiting for customers to answer the door and receive their parcels. Instead they would simply put a card through the letterbox advising the customer that there was a parcel for collection at the post office causing the customer to fetch it for themselves!