Hannah is a semi-recovered perfectionist and longtime subscriber to the squiggly model of success. She spent 11 years learning from the best at brands like HubSpot and Food52 and loves running, cooking, and helping people feel A++ at work. 🤗
Elephant #1: Sharing your knowledge with your team takes time. A lot of time.
Elephant #2: Answering repetitive questions pulls you away from your priority list and makes it tough to get work done.
Process documentation can help upfront, for sure. But to keep up with business change, innovations in tech, and company growth, the processes you developed way back when could probably use a little TLC. What does tender loving care look like in this context? Two words: Process improvement. 🙌
Process improvement is just what it sounds like. It's the act of analyzing specific processes and optimizing them to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
Want to save time, minimize interruptions, and get back to doing what you do best? Check out these seven simple process improvement steps to improve productivity across the board and propel your company forward.
Step 1: Understand your goals
Want to reap the benefits of a better process? Figure out what you want to achieve first.
Maybe you want to drive adoption of your new knowledge base. Maybe you want to help people self-serve more easily. Maybe you want to add more screenshots to your documentation to appeal to visual learners. Maybe you want to include a best practice from a subject matter expert. Maybe you want to share a pro tip from a top performer. Maybe you want to do all of the above, and more.
Once you identify and understand your goals, you can begin socializing them and suggesting process improvements with your end goal(s) in mind.
Step 2: Map your current process
What’s just as important as deciding where you want to go? Understanding where you are today.
To visualize your current process, try creating a flowchart. You can use a tool like Lucidchart or SmartDraw, or something decidedly less fancy. There’s nothing wrong with pen and paper!
Mapping it all out can help you spot extra steps, bottlenecks, and other problems within your current business process.
A note from someone who has gone down the rabbit hole of process mapping: Making a list of each step definitely works. But nine times out of 10, it’s easier to see the bigger picture with a flowchart.
Include every step in your visualization process, no matter how small or unimportant it may seem.
Once you’ve figured out which flowchart visualization method is best for you, follow these steps:
Outline each step in the process.
Determine how much time each step will take to complete.
Figure out who is responsible for each step and where each handoff occurs.
Step 3: Analyze the current process for changes
Now that you can see your current process from start to finish, start brainstorming process improvement ideas to make it better. To help you analyze your process effectively, we recommend asking yourself the following questions:
Where do team members get frustrated with this process and need to reach out for help?
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?
Running through these steps of process improvement will help you eliminate any information that’s extraneous, unclear, unnecessarily time-consuming, irrelevant, or otherwise not very useful.
There are many different types of content you can cut. Here are a few to look out for:
Easy Edits ✍️
An employee is unable to do their job autonomously because a documented process contains incorrect or outdated information.
An employee wastes time dealing with extra steps that are unnecessary to complete the task at hand.
An entire team attends a meeting that is only relevant to a select few.
Once you identify what could be better in your current process, you can tackle the next step.
Reach out to the people who use the process the most to quickly find ideas to make it better.
Step 4: Create a new process
This is the fun part, if you ask us. 🤗
You get to take something that was getting the job done—to some extent, at least—and make it 10x better.
If that sounds ambitious, don’t worry. There’s no such thing as a bad idea, especially during an initial brainstorm. Give yourself permission to explore any and all options to enhance what already exists.
Need some help getting the ball rolling? Consider these common process improvements:
If the process is too long
If the process produces low-quality work
If the process runs into external roadblocks
Eliminate unnecessary steps
Invest in better tools
Hire a new employee to take care of it in-house
Allocate additional resources to steps that need it
Create detailed documentation
Train a current employee or an external resource to remove blockers
Invest in tools to streamline your process
Add quality control steps
Leverage new technology to solve persistent problems
It’s also important to remember that process improvements don’t happen in a vacuum. (Read: Changes to a process may affect many people across your company, and change is hard.) Checking in with everyone who could be affected by an adjusted process usually goes a long way, especially as you transition into the next step!
💃 Let's Tango: Improve processes in seconds
Is staying on top of process documentation the bane of your existence? We’ve been there.
With Tango’s Chrome extension, you can automatically generate new and improved how-to guides in seconds. Here’s a sneak peek. ⤵️
Step 5: Implement the new process
You've created a great new process—congratulations! Before you get too excited, let’s take the process for a test drive. Does it work like you hoped it would? Do a few of the people who will use it most often agree?
If everything is looking good (and you have all the permissions and approvals you need), it’s go time. You can (and likely should!) launch your new process in multiple ways. Here are three ideas:
Keep in mind that it may take some time for people to embrace changes to the old way of doing things. It may take a week, a month, or even longer for the new process to become the norm. Want to coax the transition along? Keep surfacing the benefits of the new process.
Generally speaking, you should tackle the most glaring process problems first and then move on to less urgent process changes. To help you prioritize process improvement plans most efficiently, meet with those who will be most affected by the changes.
Avoid implementing multiple process changes at once, as it may be confusing. Instead, implement one change at a time, monitor the process for results, and move on to the next change.
Whether it comes with a big red bow or not, feedback is a gift. 🎁
The people who are closest to your process may have the most valuable insights of all. Encourage them to help you fine-tune your documentation over time by asking questions like:
Is the process smooth?
Is it helping you and/or your team accomplish things more effectively?
Are there any immediate issues with the process that I need to address sooner rather than later?
You can collect feedback in a variety of ways, from circulating an anonymous Google form to setting up a Slack channel dedicated to collecting feedback to improve processes at work.
How you ask people to weigh in isn’t critical. Using the input you receive to guide your process improvement plan is.
Step 7: Monitor your results and optimize
We've reached the last of our process improvement steps: monitoring the results of all your hard work.
Think back to the initial goals you set for your new process. Has your new process hit the mark? Are those who use it happy with the changes in the end?
You may also want to monitor impact by creating specific KPIs to measure the effectiveness of your updated process. Example KPIs to help measure your success include:
Faster time to market
Higher customer satisfaction
Increased employee morale
For example, if you want to increase productivity, track the time it takes someone to complete the process. Is it faster than before? If you want to increase customer satisfaction, send your customers a survey or track changes to your net promoter score (NPS). Are people happier with your brand than they were before?
If your results are falling short, this is valuable, actionable intel (vs. a cause for panic!). Head back to the drawing board and apply what you’ve learned from monitoring your results and crowdsourcing feedback. If it appears your process change is winning hearts and minds, pick the next one to overhaul!
Continually monitor your processes to ensure they always remain at peak efficiency and effectiveness.
Why is process improvement important?
Why is knowing how to improve processes a valuable skill? Companies run on processes, from SOPs to training manuals. Improve them, and your entire company will become more successful.
Don't believe us? Here are three benefits that stem directly from best-in-class process development.
Your current processes may get the job done, but do they do so quickly?
Implementing process improvements can help you and your team complete tasks in less time while also improving work quality. Why does this matter? Adding new efficiencies will free you up to focus more time on revenue-generating activities and other initiatives to propel your company forward.
Greater ability to remain competitive
Even if process improvement is new to you, it likely isn’t for your competitors.
To help you maintain a competitive edge, take the time to improve your processes and streamline them however you can. If you let unproductive processes continue to stay in effect, you risk losing traction against your competitors.
Improved business agility
Business agility is an overall set of capabilities and a way of working that allows your business to adapt to new situations successfully.
Process improvement can make your company more agile because it can help minimize and/or eliminate many of the problems that poor processes create, including:
Luckily, these issues can be fixed (and prevented) by prioritizing continuous process improvements. Now let’s take a quick look at the types of processes you can improve.
Types of processes to improve
You can improve just about any process—formal or informal. To help you better understand these processes, let’s break down the difference between formal and informal processes.
Formal processes, often referred to as company protocols and/or standard operating 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.
The bottom line
Following seven simple process improvement steps can help you build a more successful business in a variety of ways.
Once you have best-in-class processes in place—with plans to keep optimizing them over time—you and your team will become more efficient, stay ahead of the competition, and be more agile in the face of rapid business change.
While documentation demands never end, it doesn’t have to be such a dreaded task. We have it on good authority that documentation doesn’t have to take hours, and making beautiful how-to guides doesn’t require any special skills. 🕺