How many processes do you currently operate, in order, to service your customers? Be honest – you may find it is more than you think. Most organisations operate on around 40 or so. And departments and teams grow around these processes. When something goes wrong we often add another process, and another team to operate it or to solve this problem and we forget to review how many processes we have and why. So how do you get from a process fat to a process lean organisation?
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Step 1 - Identify your processes
List them and map them. Show how they link together - sometimes known as the Value Stream Map. Be open and honest about everything that is done. List it all, leaving nothing out. Get staff to participate – very often they will show you things that are done you didn’t even know about! And you need the team’s buy in from the start so everyone understands the need for change. This will make them willing to participate.
Step 2 - Understand your processes
Get into the detail and don’t leave anything out. You will only be fooling yourself. A bit like an addict. If you don’t admit you addiction you can’t be helped!! This is where it becomes difficult. It is easy to skip over this step or rush it to get onto improving and problem solving. But if you don’t capture your process details at this stage you won’t be able to improve and simplify anything.
Step 3 - Identify your process waste
Now think about what you need to do. What is essential and what is just plain nonsense. Be honest about why things are needed. If it is just historic, is it still a valid reason? Focus on why you want to improve. What is the process’s key competence – “point and purpose”. E.g. “make 100% quality parts”? Simplify the process by looking for duplication and process steps that are odd or inexplicable! Declutter and remove the wastes of time, money and effort in all the processes.
Step 4 - Design and measure your future processes
Align what you do now with what you need to do. Throughout the whole development of your new minimalist processes, honesty and openness are key. You need to involve everyone so it is good to get the key indicator information included at this point. It helps everyone to see and believe the real picture of what is happening if it is backed up by facts. No one can meaningfully deny facts!! And try to build a vision of the future with the whole team so everyone understands where we’re going.
Step 5 - Set goals and create an action plan
To remain accountable for the changes you are proposing you need to set clear and achievable goals and plan how to reach the goals. The plan will keep everyone motivated and on board. Everyone can then buy into the journey and begin to see the destination. When implementing actions ensure changes are bedded in before moving on. Keep revisiting to ensure changes are giving the expected results. In other words - standardise. Once you have changed the process, give it time to embed within the team and organisation. This may take a day, a week or longer. But keep reminding everyone why it changed. Key indicators will help to monitor the changes so keep them up to date and review them regularly. Lastly go around again. Is everything is OK? Go around again. Increase the tension by upping the stakes. Increase the targets and pressure. Is it still OK or can we do better? Go around again. This is continuous improvement after all!
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