6 Steps To Improve Business Processes
SSI‘s ‘Business Fitness’ columnist Paul Boucherle discusses paths toward improving electronic security company’s processes.
We’re well into summer and the prospects of a family get-together for a barbecue, some cold brews and pool time is indeed comfort food for the soul. The cool water is a welcome relief to the heat of a summer day, so just jump in and – aaahhh – all is better in the world. Just like in our backyard, we count on our pool of business processes to beat the heat in our busy world of protecting people and property. Before diving into that backyard pool, you periodically must test the chemical balance to ensure the water is healthy in which to swim. Well, what about your business processes? Have you tested the PH (process hygiene) balance of your firm lately?
What exactly is your litmus strip to test company processes to ensure they are still healthy enough for a refreshing dip with your customers and company family? Is your test process current, reliable and accurate, or does it run through “filters” first? It’s important to understand this point. Filters are great for backyard pools but potentially fatal for process validations. Let me clarify a bit more.
6 Steps Toward Properly Balanced Waters
We often work with clients on their processes, which run the gamut from sales to customer service, and everything in between. These clients also run the gamut, from very large to relatively small companies. If process reviews are limited to simple surveys that are reviewed by the departments that deliver that process, you may have an unhealthy environment. Now you can certainly hire a professional pool service or consultant, but we can be expensive! So what kind of maintenance can you do?
A few simple steps would include the following, which we have found to be effective in our consulting business.
1) Keep it simple to start (KISS): Complexity breeds non-action. Making things full of needless or overly detailed agendas works great for moon shots, not so much in the real world.
2) Include different departments in reviewing the given process. You need different chemicals to keep your pool clear and clean. You need different departments to add clarity to your business processes, otherwise things get murky. Different departments objectively provide the PH balance.
3) Establish the ground rules. These help teams work together more effectively and efficiently. Will they follow the pool rules? Remember, only one on the diving board at a time and no running around outside of the pool! Establish a facilitator that has the skills to set some boundaries and get the most of the team.
4) Establish a simple and clear objective, and yes only one objective at a time if you want to make measurable progress. State this objective in one sentence; no run-ons allowed. “How can we gain more active customer referrals?” OR “How can we reduce return service calls?” OR “How can we attract the right employees?” You get the idea.
5) Recruit all levels, not just managers, to participate in a process review. You may be surprised at the innovative insights. Many companies believe processes and policies are strictly the purview of supervision and management. Pool break! Clear your pool and thinking to improve safety. When your rank-and-file help to craft your processes, they will “own them” as well as have their morale boosted by being asked to contribute. You should never be swimming alone.
6) Leave the political bags at the door. In that respect, pool checks are a good idea to ensure someone isn’t missing. Authority and management can often stifle real creativity and honesty in objectively evaluating processes. This is especially true if the manager was the author of the original process. So when you assign a facilitator, think about assigning one who doesn’t have direct supervision of the team.
Extend a Party Invitation to Everyone
When you have a pool party, you may invite the entire neighborhood. Developing improved processes for your business offers the same opportunity. All of your employees at every level, and even some customers, will help keep it real. But also keep in mind that there are no life preservers in the pool. Make sure you have an experienced lifeguard to keep an eye on the improved customer experience and improved profitability.
If you don’t have an experienced lifeguard, then consider hiring someone who will bring sunscreen to your process pool party – you want to develop a healthy-looking tan without getting burned. Make a splash in reviewing and updating your company processes before summer’s end.
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