Just as technology seems to change often, processes must change as well. Seek opportunities to make improvements.
I have been in the IT industry for the past 35 years. I have seen some amazing technological innovations in that time and I have also seen myself change my area of expertise – from developer to management and back again.
In that span, I have had the pleasure of moving into the IT process space (ITSM), applying ITIL fundamentals. And, whether I like it or not, everywhere I go I see an opportunity to improve a process – whether it be IT or business-related.
For example, I was at a local eatery recently and the person at the register was not only taking my order, she was filling my drinks, taking my payment, having me sign the receipt (even with all the payment technology options?! I will leave that topic for another day), opening bottle caps that were not twist-offs (sigh!), and the list goes on. All the while, the line behind me was growing and there must have been three or four employees in the dining area, wiping down tables and restocking items.
Did I mention she was the ONLY person working the register? The manager walked by and did nothing. My wife also happens to be a “process person” from her time in the corporate world and we both looked at each other and thought the same thing: process improvement opportunity.
Looking at the other patrons of the establishment, it was clear to me that they too were thinking the same thing, or maybe even something worse. At the same time, I felt a sense of compassion for the poor person working the register as she needed help but was either too afraid to ask for it or felt the customers could just wait, and she would get to them.
In either case, everyone’s experience could have been better, both customers and employees.
The Need for Process Improvement
So why is it that the need for this process improvement was apparent to everyone except those who were executing it? Why do many of us keep doing the same thing repeatedly, expecting different results (yes, I know what you are all thinking as to what this is called)?
For many of us, we either get caught up in the moment and don’t have time to stop and revisit what we are doing (especially in this type of situation). Or we feel we do not have the authority to do anything about it. Or we think if we make suggestions on how to improve things we are going to have to own making it happen (what, more work? No, thank you).
Processes, once implemented, can never be a “one and done” solution. There must be continuous improvement of those processes. We must all set aside time to go back and relook at what we have implemented to see if it meets the initial goal(s) of the initiative.
Just as technology seems to change often, processes must change as well. New products, new tools, new customers, and new expectations all force us to rethink how we do things, whether in our businesses or in our personal lives.
Tips for Progress
Here are a few tips to help you progress your process improvement opportunities and shift your thinking so there’s a continuous focus on making things better. Don’t just settle for the status quo.
Don’t just make process changes to make process changes (“if it ain’t broke…).
One must look at the investment made in modifying a process, which may include tool changes as well, to see if the changes outweigh the ongoing cost of leaving the process “as is.” Time, talent and treasure (ROI) must always be considered before moving forward with a process initiative.
Set Realistic, Attainable Goals
Too often, we set goals on projects that are unattainable or, at the very least, not in the time-frame we need them to be.
Sometimes it is easier to take “baby steps” when embarking on a process initiative. Short-term goals with quick wins can help gain commitment from the process team and those who may be impacted by the changes.
Make a Commitment to Change
This tip refers to an overall change philosophy and not just an individual change (although that commitment is important as well).
Go all in. Be a change agent, pardon the pun, for change. Get others on board as champions who will evangelize the need for continuous process improvement.
Most process changes will have an impact on your staff. As we are all creatures of habit, if we are asked to change, we are impacted – emotionally and even physically.
We must make it a priority to engage those who will be impacted. We must bring them into the process initiative to get their input and perspective as they are on the front line, if you will, and will have the best view of potential impact.
Engaging an Organizational Change Management (OCM) team to aid in this phase of the initiative can provide great rewards in the long-run.
Most changes do not happen overnight nor should we expect them to. We must be patient with the process of change as well as with those individuals involved in helping implement the changes.
We may not have immediate wins, and may need to revisit what we have done to continuously improve. Metrics and data can play a large role in helping to move the envelope on process change.
Change for the Better
Every day we have an opportunity to improve the way we go about our business, whether that is at home or in the workplace. We must make a conscious decision to be a part of the solution instead of standing by and allowing others, who may not know much about the process, make decisions for us.
Unlike the cashier at the fast-food restaurant, insert yourself into the process, propose new ways of doing business, and make a commitment to change. As Elphaba and Glinda, from the musical “Wicked” sang, “I have been changed for the better. I have been changed for good.”