The need to implement predictability in a business occurs for several reasons: mergers or acquisitions, inefficiencies, cost control, lack of process effectiveness, competition and global pressures, just to name a few.
Every company has processes; some are clearly defined, others are implicit. Business processes are the way a business does things. Implementing measurable, repeatable and predictable business processes are how companies build predictability into their business and transfer knowledge throughout the organization. On of the many benefits of implementing predictability into a business allows companies to continuously improve while reducing cost, become more efficient, effective and productive.
Characteristics that would indicate a process is a candidate for improvement and predictability can include any process that has inherent delays, transportations and storage requirement, low ownership and accountability, high rework, significant paper handling, same problems keep reappearing, high waste, poor feedback system, focus on quantity not quality, long cycle times or long process times.
As important as it is to continuously improve your business be careful not to become so internally focus that your relationship with clients suffers. Many companies see great results in implementing predictability and over time they spend more time working on the activities of the process instead focusing on the expected or intended outcomes.
One company I worked with refused to let a proposal go out the door until it was reviewed by more than 20 people during a monthly two-day configuration review meeting. This resulted in the sales organization fining ways to circumvent the process in order to be more responsive to clients not a predictable come that a company would want. In many cases the configurations being reviewed were not the same configurations being presented to the client because the process just took too long.
How do you approach implementing predictability in your business? The methodology described below is one I use for all my projects. It has eight steps.
1. Planning & Organization Know what you want to accomplish: drive out cost, make the company more responsive, implement an empowering employee culture, etc. This ask the question: What behavior do I want to drive to get the desired results.
2. Data Gathering & Recording What data do you need to gather? How do you gather that information? How does the data gathered support the project objectives? Is the right data being gathered?
3. Analyze Data Take what you learned and create a baseline process. After the baseline is complete you can better understand the implications of making a change to the existing the process.
4. Create Work Analysis Report Document what you uncovered and distribute the results to the correct audience for validation and approval.
5. Implement Predictability Redesign the process to drive the expected (or predictable) behaviors, cost saving, or productivity defined in the planning and organization phase of the project. Make sure the new process is consistent with the objective of the redesign.
6. Analyze Risks Understand the risks associated with the planned changed. Do a risk analysis and create a contingency plan in the event certain risks materialize.
7. Create Implementation Plan Many times when processes are changed companies fail to integrate the new process and tools into the business. It becomes an add-on that just creates more work, without reaching the desired results.
8. Create Cost Benefits Analysis There is a review of expected cost and benefits during each step of the process. This step is nothing more than the formalization of what you have learned in the prior steps.
In summary, poorly designed or implemented processes are the root cause of many problems. A process that has inherent delays, low ownership and accountability, high rework, significant paper handling, high waste, long cycle times or long process times are good candidates for process improvement.
Benefits from process redesign include: a clear definition of roles, responsibilities, expected time frames and process objectives as well as improved employee morale, improved productivity, reduced cost and Improved performance.
President, AKRIS LLC