Before you can fix a broken process, you need a process assessment. We define what it is, why you need one, and how to get started.
As a PEX consultant, I often receive the following question, “My [INSERT PROCESS NAME HERE] process is broken. Can you tell me how long it will take for you to fix it and what it’s going to cost?”
While this seems like a relatively simple question, it is actually a fairly loaded one as improving a process is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
I would love to give a simple answer, but this generally requires a more complete process assessment as opposed to a single discussion as some key questions have to address:
- Where are you starting from? Where do you want to go?
- Why are you doing this? What is the business driver?
- What does “broken” mean? What does “fixed” mean?
The results of these questions should provide a roadmap that aligns with your company’s strategic direction. That consists of all people, process, metrics, and technology enhancements necessary to move the overall process from “broken” to “fixed.”
Let’s explore those three key questions in greater detail below.
Where are you starting from? Where do you want to go?
The ability to individually or collectively self-assess your process maturity is a critical first step in driving toward improvement.
By conducting this brief self-assessment with process participants and change sponsors, you can identify any upfront inconsistencies to address before you get too far along the path to improvement efforts.
This is also a great method to use while employing the “Think Big, Start Small, Act Quickly” approach to process improvement.
Many companies will rate themselves a level 1 (low) on process maturity but desire to get to a level 5 (high) immediately. This significant of a jump is sometimes possible but often needs to be attained in incremental steps with interim business value delivery steps (and to avoid a project being bogged down by not delivering any value for an extended period of time).
Why are you doing this? What is the business driver?
Answering the “why” question is imperative so that you can determine whether or not you have succeeded.
If you want to “improve” or “get better” what does this mean for your company? While these can be modified for each organization, there are generally six different value drivers that a company can choose from in order to define their “why.”
When I use this graphic with companies, the response I most often receive is “I want all of those.” While that is a noble goal, selecting one or two of these (or a combination in an overall theme) is imperative to ensure that everyone involved in the effort has a common rallying theme.
If you are going after all of these, how would you resolve a dispute between sales (customer experience), operations (scalability), finance (financial performance), and audit (reliability)? You need to pick between these upfront so that you can avoid having to make this same decision multiple times throughout the project life-cycle.
What does “broken” mean? What does “fixed” mean?
Once you answer these foundational questions, then you can get into the actual assessment itself.
We recommend starting by defining what “broken” and “fixed” actually means in your specific situation.
|Too long to onboard, losing customer in process||X% of customer onboarded within Y timeframe|
|Decreasing margins despite increasing revenue||Margins improve at the same pace or faster than revenue growth|
|Not meeting customer demands/losing customers||Net promoter score of X|
|Too much overtime||Overtime reduced and/or eliminated|
|Shipping costs out of control||Shipping costs managed within budget|
|I don’t know where my problems are||Proactive notification of potential issues before they occur|
|Failed internal and/or external audit||Processes/controls in place to pass audits|
A process assessment consists of the following:
- Defining the assessment parameters and appropriate level of current state.
- Assessing the process (leveraging benchmark data where possible) in order to define a future state.
- Delivering the roadmap, business case, and implementation plan to achieve the desired future state.
Inevitably, there are “fast path” (or “quick hit”) improvement opportunities identified through this process assessment that you can address immediately to begin delivering incremental business value.
Final Thoughts on Process Assessment
Once I explain all of the above (again long answer to a short question), the next question I inevitably receive is, “How long is this going to take me?” As a reflection of someone who worked for a lawyer for a number of years, my typical response is, “It depends.”
We have conducted these process assessments in a few days – assessing a single, low complexity process without much time being spent on current state and all participants were available to participate in a single design session over one-to-two days. Some have taken months – assessing an entire division or company with many complex processes and individuals spread across multiple geographic locations with more depth on current state.
Much like your processes and related issues are unique to your organization, so is the path to developing the solution needs to be customized to your specific needs.
Attempting to answer these somewhat basic questions and conducting the appropriate assessment activity within your organization allows you to take a structured approach to “Think Big, Start Small, and Act Quickly” on your journey to process excellence.