The main reason a business can’t design and implement responsible and effective process improvement programs aren’t that mysterious. In fact, a review of current literature shows that, in the aggregate, there are probably three characteristics to process improvement programs that have fallen short of the mark.
If Paul Nutt* is right in his assertion that two-thirds of all business decisions are based on failure prone tactics, think of your last four decisions. If even two of them made a positive difference, then, you’ve beaten the odds!
- A failure to obtain not only top management’s support but its involvement
- A failure to identify and concentrate on those processes that matter, and
- A failure to accurately define a Business’s desired State before beginning a program that alters its current state.
Okay, so what’s the value of knowing the origin of a problem if solutions are so plentiful? Just this; If a common thread can be identified that clarifies or otherwise mitigates the source of a problem, then a reasonable and effective solution to the problem can usually be identified as well. Let’s investigate that idea for a moment.
Senior Management Support
The involvement of senior management and the cooperation of an organization’s culture is generally achieved through the specific exchange of information. For the greatest effect, management must repeatedly and forcefully explain, endorse, and encourage process improvement efforts. At the same time, to garner and insure their cooperation, members of the organization must be informed by management of the specific benefits of process improvement activities as well as the negative outcomes resulting from failure. But, how can the right information be identified? And, how can both factions be convinced of the validity of their claims? We’ll get back to that in a minute.
Concentrate on Processes that Matter Most
The second source of error stems from a business’s failure to identify which processes matter the most and therefore where the greatest effort toward improvement should be exerted. Research has shown that improving just any process isn’t sufficient, rather, that for the biggest gains in effectiveness, efficiency and contribution, only those processes that have a prominent place in the value chain should be considered. But, how do you know which processes those are, what their contribution is and what effect a change in each might produce? We’ll get back to that question in a minute, too.
Knowing the End from the Beginning
The results have been outstanding… cycle times and costs have both decreased dramatically. “ProcessModel has allowed lenders across the country to create a business case that is so compelling, that even in the face of organizational resistance senior management is motivated to transition their organizations from the old to the new”. – Tony Cato, Fannie Mae
Finally, the third source of error lies in the inability, reluctance or unwillingness of a business to pinpoint just where it wants to go before it leaves where it is. As an old sage once quipped, “If you don’t know where you want to go, any road will do!” Unfortunately, that’s usually the pattern that develops when no destination is specified in advance. So, how can a business determine where the best destination might be, or if that destination is even obtainable with the resources at hand? Good question.
So, what do all of these questions have in common? One thing. In every case, the answer lies in the collection, evaluation, and dissemination of specific information regarding the business, its processes and the impact of change. But, it’s not that simple either. A business embarking on Process Improvement has to be able to determine the answer to each question in a manner that is consistent with its aims while simultaneously considering a wealth of alternatives any one of which could spell the difference between success and failure.