7 Process Improvement Steps to Propel Your Company Forward
Do you watch college football? If so, you've heard of Nick Saban, the head football coach at the University of Alabama, the most successful college football program in history.
Saban once said, "A good process produces good results." While he may have been talking about his approach to coaching football, the lesson applies to business, too. If you want to build a more successful company, start by building more effective processes.
In this article, we'll show you how! Keep reading to learn:
- What is process improvement?
- Why does process improvement matter?
- 7 process improvement steps to follow
What is Process Improvement?
Process improvement is precisely what it sounds like: the act of analyzing specific processes and altering them to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.
Just about any process, formal or informal, can be improved.
Formal processes, often referred to as company protocols and/or procedures, have specific steps for employees to follow. The processes your company uses to ensure customer safety, send and receive invoices, and build relationships with new clients fall into this category.
Informal processes, on the other hand, are often created by individuals. These processes help employees do their jobs but aren't required by employers or documented in any formal way.
Once you invest in process improvement steps, you'll be able to streamline the formal and informal processes you and your team go through daily. The result? Greater efficiency, competitiveness, and business agility. Let's talk more about these benefits…
Why Does Process Improvement Matter?
Your company is built on a series of processes. Improve them, and your entire company will become more successful. Don't believe us? Here are three benefits you'll enjoy once you commit to the seven process improvement steps outlined in this article.
Your current processes get the job done, but do they get it done quickly?
Process improvement will help you complete tasks in less time while improving the quality of your work. When this happens, you'll be able to focus more time and energy on the tasks that matter—revenue-generating tasks that propel your company forward.
It's not just about your business, it's about the businesses you compete against.
Rest assured, each one of them is investing in process improvement. You'll fall behind if you're not constantly looking for ways to streamline and improve your processes.
According to the Business Agility Institute, business agility is, "A set of organizational capabilities, behaviors, and ways of working that affords your business the freedom, flexibility, and resilience to achieve its purpose. No matter what the future brings."
Put simply, business agility allows organizations to adapt to new situations successfully.
Process improvement will make your company more agile because it will minimize and/or eliminate many of the problems that poor processes create:
- Customer Complaints
- Frustrated Employees
- Wasted Resources
- Cost Increases
- Missed Deadlines
Here's the good news: better processes are within reach! All you have to do is follow the seven process improvement steps below.
7 Process Improvement Steps to Follow
Now that we understand what process improvement is and why it's essential to your company's success, let's discuss how to implement it in your organization.
Here are seven process improvement steps you can follow to streamline your business.
1. Understand Your Goals
First, ask yourself, "What is this process supposed to accomplish?"
You can't improve a process until you know the business challenges the process is designed to overcome. Want to build better products? Reduce the time you spend in meetings? Communicate with customers more efficiently?
Once you understand your goals, you can look for better ways to achieve results.
2. Map Your Current Process
Now that you know what your process is supposed to accomplish, map it.
We suggest creating a flowchart to visualize your process. This will make it much easier to pinpoint extraneous steps, bottlenecks, and other inefficiencies. Just make sure to include every step in the process—even the seemingly small, unimportant ones.
Once you've chosen a flowchart tool, visualize your processes by:
- Outlining each and every step in the process
- Determining how much time each step takes to complete
- Pinpointing who is responsible for each step and where each handoff happens
We should mention that text-based process mapping is often ineffective. This approach makes it difficult to understand the relationship between the work accomplished and the methods used. You'll be much better off visualizing your processes with a flowchart.
3. Assess the Process For Changes
At this point, you understand what your process is supposed to achieve. You've also visualized the process so that you can quickly pinpoint inefficiencies.
Now it's time to analyze your process so that you can identify the changes you need to make to improve it. We recommend asking yourself the following questions:
- Where do team members get frustrated with this process?
- Which steps in the process cause bottlenecks and other delays?
- What aspects of this process cause costs and/or quality to decline?
- Which steps in the process take the most time to complete?
These process improvement steps are designed to eliminate waste. Waste can take a variety of forms. For example, extra steps in a process would be considered waste, as would defective products that are produced because of poor processes.
Assess your processes for waste. That way, you can brainstorm ways to eliminate it and create more efficient and effective procedures for your company.
Pro Tip: Don't assess processes on your own. Talk to the people who use said processes daily. These folks will have an intimate understanding of the process's shortcomings.
4. Create a New Process
Once you've identified the problems with your current process, you can fix them.
That's right. It's time to brainstorm solutions! Just make sure you don't automatically accept the first solution that pops into your head. As the old saying goes, there's more than one way to crack an egg. You're looking for the best solution, not the most convenient one.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
If your process is too long, consider…
- Eliminating unnecessary steps in your current process
- Allocating additional resources to specific steps in your process
- Investing in tools to streamline particular aspects of your process
If your process produces low-quality work, consider…
- Investing in better tools to ensure process steps are completed effectively
- Creating detailed documentation, so employees know how to complete the process
- Adding "Quality Control" steps to your process to catch errors sooner rather than later
If your process regularly runs into external roadblocks, consider…
- Hiring a new employee to complete external tasks in-house
- Training a current employee to complete external tasks in-house
- Investing in tools and/or software to complete external tasks in-house
Remember, company processes don't happen in a vacuum. Changing how you or your team do things may impact other people and teams within your organization. Make sure to consult with affected parties before implementing a new process. Speaking of…
5. Implement the New Process
You've created a dynamite new process—congratulations! But before you get too excited, take the process for a test drive. Does it work like you hoped it would?
Bear in mind that processes take a while to implement effectively. You and your team are used to doing things a certain way. It may take a week, a month, or maybe longer for the new process to become the norm. So don't be too hard on yourself.
Pro Tip: Do not implement every process change at the same time. Doing so would be too confusing. It will also make it difficult to assess the impact of each shift. Instead, implement one change at a time, monitor your process for results, and move on to the following change.
Which alterations should you make first? In general, tackle the most glaring process problems at the onset. But meet with others who will be affected by the process to prioritize changes.
6. Seek Feedback
Once you've implemented your new process, you need to evaluate it.
Is the process smooth? Is it helping you and/or your team accomplish things more effectively? Are there any glaring issues with the process that need to be addressed ASAP?
To answer these questions accurately, you need to seek feedback from your team. (Unless, of course, you're the only person who uses the new process. In that case, try to give yourself honest feedback. After all, these process improvement steps are all about, right?)
To receive honest feedback, make it easy for other people to share their opinions.
You could, for example, create a Trello Board. Each card could represent a different step in the process, and team members can share their thoughts via Trello's internal commenting feature. You could also set up a Slack channel dedicated to process improvement suggestions.
How you collect feedback isn't nearly as important as simply committing to collecting it.
7. Monitor Your Results
We've reached the last of our process improvement steps: monitoring results.
Things change. New solutions hit the market. Employees leave to pursue different opportunities. You need to continually monitor your processes to ensure they're still effective. If they're not, head back to step number one and start over.
Here's something we haven't talked about yet: how do you determine whether a process is effective or not? You create KPIs to measure your processes.
Think about your process's goal to help you and/or your team accomplish it. Examples include:
- Better productivity.
- Faster time to market.
- Higher customer satisfaction.
- Boosted employee morale.
- A distinct edge over the competition.
Once you've pinpointed your goal(s), you can find metrics to measure them by.
If you want to boost productivity, track the time it takes someone to complete the process. Is the amount of time less than it was before? If you want to increase customer satisfaction, send your customers an NPS survey. Is your score higher than it was before?
The key to process improvement is continual evaluation. Make a point to monitor your processes to remain at peak efficiency and effectiveness.
Improve Your Processes Today
To build a more successful business, create better, more effective processes. When you have them in place, you and your team will become more efficient, stay ahead of the competition, and maintain agility, which will help you weather industry changes easily.
But here's the thing: a stellar process isn't enough. You also need to document that process so that everyone on your team can complete it correctly, time after time.
When it comes to the process documentation, trust Tango.
Our industry-leading tool is both powerful and easy to use. All you have to do is turn it on, run through your process, and let Tango create detailed instructions (with screenshots!) for you. You'll also be able to quickly edit your steps for additional clarity, annotate screenshots with text boxes and arrows, and otherwise update your documents to perfection.
Get started with Tango today and begin documenting your processes for tremendous success!