Every organization, regardless of its size or industry, relies on business processes to function. If you’re an employee, you probably know the processes you’re involved with like the back of your hand. You especially know what steps you’re involved in and what deadlines you need to meet. But do you know why those steps are important? Are you aware of the organizational goals these processes serve? And even more importantly, are you sure every process is working as efficiently as possible? In many cases, it’s not just employees who are out of the loop. Even organizational leaders often forget to engage in continuous business process improvement. In this post, I’m explaining what this is, why it matters, and how to harness its power.
What Does It Take to Improve Business Processes?
According to this article from Forbes Advisor, business process improvement is all about reevaluating old habits. It means looking at the things your organization has always done with a critical eye. When you do this, you’ll gather information about how well processes are working and evaluate that data. You’ll likely end up making decisions to address issues and improve processes. This can range from redefining an approvals process to introducing AI solutions. This will allow you to take action towards continuous improvement.
This article from McKinsey helps to contextualize process improvement. It is a key element of continuous improvement, which refers to an ongoing effort in an organization. This effort strives to improve all parts of a business’s operations, including its processes, tools, etc. It also enables organizations to respond quickly to changing conditions.
Continuous improvement requires several crucial factors. One is knowledge sharing. This means that different teams and departments need to be able to communicate and collaborate with each other. When they do this, they can hopefully spread valuable information and generate new insights. Second, organizations need to implement performance transparency. When this happens, everyone knows what goals they need to meet. Moreover, they know how to access data about their progress towards those goals. Of course, this is most important to managers overseeing processes. Finally, employee involvement is essential. The McKinsey article cites one example of how gathering feedback from employees improved an organization’s processes. Managers in this organization shared that they didn’t get enough onboarding to feel confident in their roles. Based on that information, leadership revamped the onboarding process. Of course, this made a big difference, not just for the managers, but for the organization as a whole.
Benefits of Process Improvement
As you might suspect, process improvement serves an organization in many ways. Its effects are also felt at many levels. In the big picture, as this article from Forbes Advisor notes, it helps organizations reach their goals. Let’s say an organization wants to prioritize sustainability and reducing its carbon footprint. At the heart of this work, it will need to evaluate its processes.
Also at an organizational level, process improvement saves time and money. It helps organizations make smarter decisions about how to leverage its resources. This happens by identifying obstacles to efficiency and remedying them. As this Forbes article points out, obsolete and inefficient processes are often the cause of resource mismanagement. It’s important to engage in process improvement especially in the recent context of mass layoffs at many companies. Improving processes allows an organization to do more with what it has. It avoids the need for drastic changes like layoffs to maintain profitability.
Finally, process improvement is important for the individual employees of an organization. This isn’t just because it feels good to work more efficiently. It’s also because organizations that don’t constantly evaluate processes end up resorting to drastic measures like layoffs. Obviously, these kinds of moves hurt morale. Employees feel more positively about their work when process improvement is a normal part of organizational operations.
Methodologies to Implement
You’re likely now convinced that it’s important to engage in process improvement. So how do you get started? This Forbes article advises engaging in business process mapping. This involves creating visual representations of an organization’s processes. Usually, you’ll see these maps translated into detailed flowcharts.
To map a process, you’ll need to know a few things. First, what is being done? Second, who’s responsible and contributes to these tasks? Third, what metrics are used to measure success for this process? As you identify each of these components, question them. Ask why it’s done this way. This helps to clarify not just the basics but also the beliefs underlying certain processes.
Once you’ve identified your processes, you’re ready to try some process improvement methodologies. The PDCA Cycle (also known as the Deming Cycle) describes a basic series of steps to center in process improvement. PDCA is an acronym for these steps. First, plan an improvement. Next, do it (on a small scale). At this point, check its impacts by collecting and analyzing data. Last, act to implement change on a greater scale. This cycle is iterative, much like the Agile project management methodology. Other methodologies, like Kaizen and Total Quality Management (TQM) incorporate the elements of this cycle.
It’s also worth understanding the implications of the Theory of Constraints. This theory asserts that every process has some constraints. Constraints may be employees lacking in digital dexterity or missing a growth mindset. They can also relate to equipment, policies, or processes. Using this theory for process improvement involves looking for those constraints and then optimizing processes around them.
The Goal: Operational Efficiency
This Indeed article identifies the ultimate goal of engaging in process improvement: operational efficiency. Operational efficiency is different from productivity. Instead of just focusing on producing more, it looks at how an organization can use less. That means operating faster (less time) and with lower costs. Improving processes is crucial to achieving operational efficiency. That’s because this ultimate measure of success relies on the optimization of all the parts of how an organization functions first.
Improve Business Processes with Pyrus
It may feel overwhelming to map and review all the processes in your organization at once. Fortunately, you can get started by utilizing Pyrus’s workflow automation software. This Forbes Advisor article highlights a few classic examples of processes that could use improvement. These include time-consuming approval processes and disorganized communication. Fortunately, these are just a couple of the problems Pyrus solves.
With the Pyrus software, you’ll be able to define the tasks and responsible parties for any workflow in minutes. Then, you’ll start to receive business analytics to help you identify bottlenecks and track various metrics for each process. Ultimately, this will make it a piece of cake to make data-driven decisions about process improvement. So what are you waiting for? Check it out today, and let Pyrus help you move work forward.