Every company has different needs, but process excellence success starts with one approach: “Think Big, Start Small, Act Quickly.”
Part of a series.
If you’ve been thinking about process excellence, chances are you have questions about where to start. Below you will find answers – and related examples – to some of the questions we hear most often.
1. Is Lean Six Sigma the Answer to Process Excellence?
After scouring the internet, I am convinced that my organization has very low process maturity and definitely needs to make some improvement – and quickly! I guess it’s time to suck it up and bring in those Lean Six Sigma consultants to solve all of my problems. We can get the whole organization trained on Lean Six Sigma, develop a bunch of green belts and black belts within the company, and we’ll be set. Isn’t that what General Electric (GE) did?
Whoa! Hold on! It’s great to have aspirations to get to an organization with a strong Lean Six Sigma foundation but that’s probably shooting for the moon when simply getting off the ground would be a great start. Not to overuse analogies, but crawl, walk, run is a great approach to take when thinking about process excellence improvements within an organization.
2. Should I Start by Overhauling Reporting Systems?
Since I know having data helps you to be more successful with process improvements, maybe I’ll start with overhauling my reporting systems. I know that our call center has really low customer satisfaction scores, so maybe we can just revamp that entire organization. Maybe we can do them both at the same time to really get things moving. I can use the Lean Six Sigma consultants for the call center work and the technical consultants for my reporting systems. Now, where are their numbers?
Double whoa! Once again, probably some good ideas, but is this really the right wait to start to transform your organization? Do you want to just throw out a number of large projects that you think will be great for your organization but will probably cause a lot of turmoil and consternation in the months they take to implement?
What will be the impact to the call center if you need to pull out some of the top reps to dedicate to a long-term restructure? Even worse, what would happen if you didn’t involve some of the most knowledgeable resources in the restructuring efforts? How about taking a “Think Big, Start Small, Act Quickly” approach to process excellence? Have you ever thought about starting with a process assessment to determine the complete roadmap of what needs to be done to improve a specific process, general area or entire organization?
3. Do I Really Need a Process Assessment?
A process assessment sounds good, but what am I going to do with a bunch of paper? Don’t I need to just get moving on fixing things so that I can start to catch up to my competitors? I really like the “quickly” part. Does anyone ever get value out of those assessment things? Maybe I’ll just do the reporting system and work on the call center after that.
Sounds like we’re getting closer, but let me give you a few real-life examples of how companies have leveraged assessments to achieve process excellence in the short and long term.
The Financial Services Firm
A large financial services provider compiled a list of over 200 billing-related processes. Their initial plan was to conduct a Kaizen session for each of these processes in order to knock out the improvements.
This would have been a heck of an effort. They were able to map these 200 processes to the APQC’s Process Classification Framework®(PCF) in order to determine that there were really five core processes they were dealing with.
This revealed the heavy amount of customer-specific customization that had evolved over the years but gave them a faster path to addressing their issues and saved them hundreds (if not thousands) of hours investigating and mapping each process individually.
Our team developed customer-specific requirements and a roadmap to address each of the five core processes as opposed to 200 separate processes.
The Nutrition Provider
A nutrition provider was experiencing significant challenges with compensating their sales reps in a timely (and sometimes accurate) manner. The initial idea was to implement a new commission system (expected to take 6 to 12 months) that would replace their current data warehouse solution.
In the assessment, an 85 step current state process was identified that showed multiple individuals were pulling data from the data warehouse and manipulating it in their own unique manner, which resulted in numerous inconsistencies in reporting and payments.
A number of short-term processes, sales plan, and related communication improvements were identified and implemented within 60 to 90 days with a longer-term plan developed to continue to revise how the data warehouse was leveraged.
This resulted in more immediate benefits to the company while saving a significant expense related to implementing a new commissions system.
The Institutional Investment Firm
An institutional investment firm had a desire to improve their processes in order to properly mitigate risk and prepare for future growth. The initial thought was to get a small team of internal resources their Lean Six Sigma black belt certification so that they could then begin to drive the improvements themselves.
Instead, they undertook an assessment that leveraged APQC to define an initial process taxonomy. Based on this, they were able to identify a single area to focus on initially.
A more in-depth analysis was done in this single area to map the current state processes as well as identify related pain points and immediate areas for improvements as part of an overall improvement roadmap.
This approach is expected to be replicated in other areas in order to continue to drive improvements but has also highlighted the need for a corporate workflow/BPM tool that can be leveraged to ensure consistent implementation and compliance of the new standardized processes.
The business process taxonomy and mapping provided company leadership with a baseline view of all processes, while building out a framework for continued improvements. This allowed them to recognize value sooner while still allowing their key resources to increase their exposure to improvement techniques.
4. How Do I Think Big, Start Small, and Act Quickly for Process Excellence?
Wow! That sounds like some pretty impactful process improvements in a relatively short time frame without a lot of effort. How would that work for me?
Every company definitely has different processes and needs. The most important first step is determining the scope of processes to focus on.
Do you want to look at the entire organization or a large part of the organization (in which you’d probably want to start leveraging the APQC PCF to define your process taxonomy)? Or do you want to go even quicker and focus on a specific process that you know is causing the most pain in the organization?
For example, are your call center issues caused by an improper setup of your client base in your systems? If so, maybe we can start by just looking at the customer on-boarding process. If you don’t know what is causing the call center issues, maybe we could start by identifying all of the call center processes and then building our improvement roadmap from there?
There are a lot of options to approaching process excellence. How do you want to “Think Big, Start Small, and Act Quickly?”