Before we start work with a new client, we usually ask them to give us a tour around the site in question, whether that’s a factory, a mine, a hospital or an office.
This helps us get an overview of how things work and how separate elements interact, enabling us to start building up a full picture of the organisation’s overall processes.
As we go, we try to start working out the answers to questions like these:
- How do employees and departments function together?
- How many different elements exist in each key process and are they dependent on sub-processes?
- Is there anyone in the company who knows the end-to-end process fully and can spot when and where issues are occurring?
Discovering the answers to these questions is usually very difficult. Processes tend to be segmented and the people involved are generally only familiar with their own elements.
With the big picture lacking, time and money is often wasted. Effort and resources may be expended on unnecessary steps, without anyone being aware, let alone being able to do anything to fix it. Resolving this conundrum is often our first task.
So let’s look at each of those three questions in turn…
1) How do employees and departments function together?
We often find that one particular department is blamed for inefficiencies, but the issue may actually stem from a step that has been obsolete for years but is still being done regardless.
Perhaps one step is being duplicated by both sales and marketing. Another may require approval from six people at head office, which takes a minimum of two days. Another may be handled by three different employees, all of whom do it differently.
It’s essential to understand the different parties involved and the quality of communication across departments.
2) How many different elements exist in each key process and are they dependent on sub-processes?
It may appear, on the surface, that there are only six steps to a process, but this could triple if you take sub-processes into account. And several of these may need to be completed before the process can move on to the next step.
3) Is there anyone in the company who knows the end-to-end process fully and can spot when and where issues are occurring?
We often find that employees only consider themselves responsible for the process elements they’re directly involved with and often no-one is actually aware of the entire process. This lack of understanding can lead to frustration and misunderstandings, and makes it very difficult to embrace a culture of continuous improvement.
We usually find that the best way to get a clear understanding of key processes is through our Focus Process®.
In the early stages, we’ll gather all those responsible for different steps together to establish the current end-to-end process and also what works and what doesn’t. Interestingly, the best suggestions for improvements that emerge often come from people who aren’t directly responsible but have previous experience to draw on.
At the end of the sessions, everyone involved usually leaves with a greater awareness of what their contribution means and why it’s important to highlight any potential delays or other issues as and soon as they come up.
Feedback we receive suggests that these sessions usually lead to improved collaboration and a greater sense of cohesion.
In a similar vein, consider how helpful it might be if all your employees had a general understanding of all the high level processes in your organisation, from production to marketing to sales. Sharing this information across departments could open the door to collaboration and help to generate ideas for improvement. It could also increase cross-departmental employee interaction, improving engagement and efficiency.
Sound good? Why not get in touch and let us show you how it can be done sustainably.