All businesses deliver products and services according to their business processes. In the same way the central nervous system transmits instructions from the brain to various parts of the body, business processes provide the mechanism that turns objectives into action.

So more effective processes make for more effective actions and, ultimately, better outcomes. The first step to improved processes is a clear and comprehensive understanding of the existing state of affairs.

Do you know how well your current business processes perform?

I recently asked a group of business owners what kind of service their help lines delivered. Out of the 30 that I asked, only one could tell me. None of the others had thought to pick up the phone to get an insight into their customers’ experience.

A process map is the first step towards understanding how a process is performing – and how it might perform better. A process map provides a physical representation of the individual steps within a particular process, identifies who has ownership of each step, and may even incorporate timelines and other information.

The act of creating a process map will itself likely highlight areas where resources are being wasted.

We recently mapped a client’s enrolment process and discovered that it was possible for students to enrol in a course and graduate before fees were collected. It was no surprise that four staff were involved in chasing bad debtors! This waste of resources at the end of the workflow chain was a direct result of poor practices earlier in the process.

Eight well known and well documented wastes are:

Defects/Damage, Over Production, Non-Utilised Talent, Transport, Inventory, Motion and Extra Processing

Process mapping helps the whole team to understand the process better and empowers them to call out the waste within it. Often, the people carrying out the process know where the inefficiencies are.

Having identified the issues, the next task is to categorise them and prioritise the most urgent. Then to identify the solution.

Engaging the whole team and mapping the entire process is also a great way to ensure the knowledge that has accumulated inside the heads of your staff is made available to all – now, but also well into the future, when the original source of that information has long since left the building.

Sounds simple – and at heart it is

But like any business process, the process of identifying strategic objectives, of analysing and understanding current practices and identifying their shortcomings, of engaging the whole workforce in developing and implementing solutions is a specialist skill; one few business leaders have the experience and skill to apply.

It can also be difficult for a business leader to admit that a process is no longer fit for purpose.

This is where an objective advisor can really add value. With no need to defend their position in the organisation, and no allegiance to “the way we’ve always done things”, a process improvement specialist can help a business and its people harness their own experience to create lasting solutions.

Want to explore this further?  There are some good practitioners around and funding models available to help businesses down this road: [email protected]


Ian Walsh

Partner, New Zealand

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