Process Improvement is challenging; especially when you are a Project Manager and dealing with owners who have a “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” attitude. Yet improving a process (or suite of processes) could be vital to the success of your project and potentially vital for the organisation (especially if the Project is delivering enterprise-wide change).
You may find yourself to be stuck in a similar situation where you need to engage a process owner to introduce new, improve on or retire business processes to ensure or improve on the success of your project. Of course, you might also be thinking that “this isn’t your job” or “I am too busy for this”, but let us put those thoughts aside for now and focus on how you can influence positive change.
There may be many specific reasons for introducing, improving on, or retiring processes (known simply as process improvement), but there are some more common justifications that are often overlooked. Collectively, they form the entire reason for process improvement.
Reason #1: Boost morale / reduce conflict
Whether we like it or not people get frustrated; especially with things they feel are unnecessary or they do not fully understand why things need to be done in the first place. Things like an inappropriately high level of leadership oversight for requests that are seemingly simple, how many people need to be involved in decision-making, etc. There are 2 things we can do here to reduce conflict and therefore boost morale. First, understand fully why it is done this way. Second, determine how it can be done to the same or higher level of quality in much less time. Even something as simple as communicating the need for and purpose of a process can be an improvement. Why? Because you are building understanding at an organisational level, and therefore you are reducing resistance.
Reason #2: Improve Efficiency
Reducing resistance to processes, improving on processes that have unnecessary steps, or removing processes that provide no organisational value all contribute to improving efficiency. The butterfly effect that improving efficiency can have both tangibly and intangibly can, frankly, be jaw-dropping. By being more efficient you are being more productive. Tasks are completed quicker, which means you can move onto the next task(s) sooner, which means you deliver a project quicker, which means you are more competitive in the market, which means your sentiment and reputation are better, which means more people will buy your product and service, which means there is money coming into your business that funds your salary.
Reason #3: Quality (of Deliverables) Improves
On the flip side, combines with boosted employee morale and efficient processes, you will very likely experience a huge improvement on the quality of work. Why? Because you have more time to complete tasks, you have happy and loyal employees who are invested in the success of the organisation. Let us say, for example, you make major improvements on the process for testing software being developed as part of a project. Granted you have improved testing efficiency by 50% (from 10 tests per hour to 15 tests per hour), quality of error detection by 5% (from 90% errors detected to 95% errors detected), and have been given the same amount of time to complete those tests (1 week / 5 days @ 8 hours); you’ll have completed 200 more tests and picked up more defects along the way. Defects that can be resolved. Defects that won’t be experienced by the end user.
How can I influence positive change?
Sometimes the answer is not that simple, but there are a few tips and tricks you can follow to help you on your way and get process owners (and their leaders) on your side. There are a couple we believe are very important and so we will share these with you. Remember we said you would be “wondering why you’re doing this in the first place” or thinking “this isn’t my job”. This leads to our first tip. Whilst it might not be in your job description, it will affect the success of you and the organisation you work for. It might be frustrating at times but think of the results! Our first tip is, of course, to work WITH process owners. Understand the process for what it is. Lastly, it is no good coming to the party with selfishness in mind. Improvements will affect other projects; not just yours. Provide understanding of how process improvements will affect the entire organisation, aid / guide and even provide samples of what the “to-be” may look like. Contribute to the solution. At the end of the way, we are all on the same team working towards the same organisational objectives. It is ok to step outside of your job description, to help others and to improve on your experience.
To conclude, process improvement will forever be a vital part of an organisation’s success. We have said it many times before. You need to be dynamic, flexible and shift quickly to remain competitive in today’s market.