Have you ever considered why you work the way you do? The origin of a business process is often lost in the mists of time. Someone starts working in a particular way and others continue the tradition for years, regardless of whether it is the best method for that task. This can result in people wasting time without realising it.
Think about the processes in your business.A frequent waster of time is creating reports which contain lots of information that nobody really needs. They can take a long time to put together. Take a look at our example about a sales report and see if this applies to you.
- How much time, space (and hence money) are you wasting?
- Are there unnecessary steps in the process?
- Are you taking advantage of modern technology?
Reviewing your business processes regularly can help to identify inefficiency and improving the process is an easy way to keep costs down. You will waste less, simply by spotting the inefficiencies early.
Implementing lean process improvement can become quite involved and detailed. However, the basic principles are simple and straightforward:
1. Focus on your customer. Ultimately, what all customers want is value. Value creation occurs when the quality of services received is perceived as high compared to their cost. What does your customer want and how can you provide it better, faster, cheaper?
2. Figure out how the work gets done. We have lots of assumptions about how work gets done that don’t mirror exactly what happens. After all, during the day-to-day grind, we don’t think about how we do the work, we often just do it. Ask an outside observer to record the steps of the process in a way that he/she could repeat it themselves if they had to, without assistance.
3. Remove inefficiencies and waste. Once you know what the workflow of your process looks like, take a second look at any step in the process that doesn’t directly create value for the customer. Manage, improve, and smooth your process flow to eliminate non-valued-added activity (e.g., wasted time, wasted movement, wasted inventory due to overproduction, customer delays, waiting for approvals, delays due to batching of work, unnecessary steps, duplication of effort, and errors and rework).
4. Track numbers and manage by evidence. Sometimes what should work well doesn’t. Test out your process, collect data on how well it is working, highlight and eliminate errors, and seek continuous improvements in value. Seek proof; don’t assume an improvement has been made.
5. Empower the people operating the process. The best person to improve a process is the person who carries out the process. Utilize employee’s full skillsets—can someone be doing more? If the process is improved, they will likely have time to take on higher level work.
6. Go about all this in a systematic way. Your process is not perfect and if by some miracle it is, it won’t stay that way for long. Changes will occur that will demand changes in the process. Being able to replicate the steps of process improvements is the key to delivering long-term, sustained value.