In my previous article, I discussed how people create the foundation of change for any organization. Once the right people are in place, next put processes in place to support those people. This is critical in ensuring repeatable success towards an organizational vision.

Every organization has processes of varying levels and sophistication. Processes exist for every business task imaginable. An organization puts processes into place for many reasons. It may be for control – so someone can ensure that things go a specific way. It may be for clarity – so a team can understand what is going on. It may be for repeatability – to ensure consistent actions. Or, it may be for experience – so customers know what to expect and when to expect it.

Approximately 30% to 40% organization waste comes from ineffective and unevaluated processes

Whatever the reason may be, the second aspect of organizational change is thinking about the processes that define your organization.

When discussing process, people often think about situations involving too much process. Governments, in particular, seem to create process for process’ sake. Process is often used as a form of job security. One very angry individual yelled at me when the software I wrote to automate a task was going to “put him out of a job.” That task, ultimately, was making sure numbers in a spreadsheet added up to the right values.

What signs can you look for that processes do not align with broad organizational change? Here are a few:

  • Individuals cannot explain the purpose of a process – If you ever find someone saying, “We’ve always done it that way,” it’s time to inspect your processes.
  • Processes slow down action for no clear reason – There are times processes exist to slow down action to force people to think through a problem. But, when that slowdown is not the goal of the process, there may be an issue.
  • A process creates confusion instead of clarity – If you have had the pleasure of trying to speak with technical support at a large organization, you already understand this point. Processes that create confusion, especially to the customer, need review.
  • Processes are not measured – It is impossible to tell if a process is working if that process is not measured against a goal. This is why it is crucial to have a goal for every process.

Do any of these sound familiar to you? W. Edwards Deming, an engineer known for his ability to increase quality and reduce costs, said, “A bad system will beat a good person every time.” A bad process will negate the herculean efforts by even the best people.

Elevate your processes
Elevate your processes

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Implementing Proper Processes

When enacting process change as an organizational leader, do so remembering two things. First, processes are a series of actions or steps to achieve a particular goal. Second, any process put into action should give your people an effective place to support their decisions.

Step 1: What is the Goal?

Before you begin to implement a process, what are you trying to accomplish? This is not as simple as acknowledging that there is a problem that needs to be solved. Rather, what measurable outcomes do you wish to see in putting a process into action. It is crucial that all those involved are aiming at the same target and agree upon the same target.

Some examples of possible and measurable goals:

  • 100% of all families should receive a response from the staff within one business day.
  • 100% of families should have any issues resolved in three business days.
  • 95% of all grounds crew tasks will complete within one week’s time unless approved by a manager.

Step 2: Analyze Existing Processes

Approximately 30% to 40% organization waste comes from ineffective and unevaluated processes. Spend time considering what processes a new process replaces. For each new process created, attempt to retire at least two processes. Encourage the organization to look for efficiencies. Do not continue doing things because, “That’s the way it was always done.”

Step 3: Consider the People

Unless the process is fully automated – which is rare – consider the people involved in the process. How do people fit into the workflow? Consider some of the following questions:

  • Who should be involved? Why?
  • Does this process create or remove work for those individuals?
  • Is there overlap between individuals in similar roles? Sometimes a proper process requires people shifting roles in the organization.
  • Is there a possibility of bottlenecks?
  • Does too much work land on a single person’s plate?

Make sure that the people who are being asked to develop the process are the ones who will use it. There is nothing worse than being told to follow a process that was created without input from the ones who must follow it.

Step 4: Identify Key Steps

After identifying the key individuals, flesh out the process steps. All work should focus on the goal identified in step one. By giving your people ownership of the process, you achieve great buy-in and careful attention to detail. Use this time to question why certain steps are being taken.

Be careful to not get hung up on technology – especially technology that is not already part of your organization. Implementation details are important, but technology comes with its own challenges. It is not always the panacea for all process ills. Establish the right process first and do not prematurely compromise it by the limitations of a technical system.

Step 5: Provide Training

After building a process, do not put it away on a shelf and call it a day! Document it. Train it. Make it part of your culture. A process not taught is a process wasted. If you do not take time for this step, your employees will fail to use it. You may get a single, wizened veteran who has the organizational knowledge locked in his or her brain, and that is it. While it may be great for job security, it does not lead to repeatable, organization-wide steps.

Make sure that your people are being trained – even the ones who built the process. If a process is particularly crucial, provide periodic retraining.

Step 6: Measure and Review

The secret rule about creating processes is this: building a process is the beginning. Great organizations measure their processes to make sure they are attaining the defined goals of Step 1. Walmart, a company built on the back of phenomenal supply chain management, identifies areas to drive costs out of their supply chain. This allows them to enable consumers to “save money and live better” – a tie back to their company values. If a process is not meeting defined goals, return to Step 2. Determine what needs to change to move you to the goals of Step 1.

Processes, like anything else, are a tool to get you to a goal. Always be cautious of “process for process’ sake.” Processes drive your organization’s goals forward. A process enhances the work that your people are doing and creates a culture of excellence.

In the final installment of People, Process, and Tools, I will discuss how technology supports organizational growth and changes.

This article was first published in ICCFA Magazine in September 2020.

Meet our Chief Technical Officer

Jason brings his impressive leadership experience and technical background to bear at webCemeteries. His past achievements have included managing technical mergers and acquisitions, leading a team of 20 engineers through large system transitions, and developing leading industry products. Jason’s technical leadership at webCemeteries is advancing our systems to shape tomorrow’s cemetery management software.

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