Use your Process Improvement Successes to show what’s possible

Use your Process Improvement Successes to show what’s possible

Every organisation has completed successful process improvement projects. Projects may be large or small, highly visible or low key, major impact or just in one area. The key point is that these successes help you show what can be achieved from process improvement projects.

In previous blogs we have discussed how and why communication is so important. We have encountered many organisations who struggle to make the case for process improvement, and find making progress with process improvement efforts challenging.

Here are some of the reasons we see:

• A lack of clarity in the organisation around the goal of the process improvement efforts;
• Numerous approaches being used, which causes uncertainty and confusion;
• Senior Managers do not understand the value of improving processes – many may not have experienced process improvement efforts first hand;
• ‘Initiative Fatigue’ from early efforts that may have been too big, and taken too long;
• Discussion is dominated by those “who really don’t know what they are talking about”.

Your successful process improvement projects help you address these challenges:

• Communication of early successes shows others what is possible, and how the approach can help in their area. Even small wins show the potential of process improvement. Develop stories around these projects to demonstrate the successes and communicate them widely.
• If you have not already done so, use these successful projects and the people who were involved in them to:
– Develop a consistent approach which can be followed for future projects;
– Gain support from senior managers impacted by these projects – use them to market the successes and the impact to other senior managers;
– Develop specific language to create a consistent message and vocabulary around the process efforts that others can use. Keep it simple and focused, and use language that will resonate in the organisation.
– Identify additional opportunities for process improvement.

Your process successes are a key to showing what is possible, and continuing your overall efforts. Even small wins allow you the opportunity to communicate the favourable impact and potential of process improvement.

There is no better way to gain buy in and to get others on board than to show them actual successes and to demonstrate the value that can be achieved.

Let Ascent Management help your business when:
• Operational and management improvements are demanded to generate superior results;
• There is a need to make a measurable performance improvement to become more competitive;
• A practical course of action is needed to capitalise on growth opportunities.

To find out more about process management and how it can help your business try our FREE quick assessments on Process Improvement or Process Based Management or sign up to our blog.

November 24, 2014 0 comments Read More
To manage a process, you need to measure it!

To manage a process, you need to measure it!

Organisations have all kinds of metrics and measures they use on an ongoing basis. Here are some examples:
• Departments report on their actual spending against their budget
• Sales is measured based on sale targets
• Management has ROI, Net income and EPS targets they track
• IT is measured based on all kinds of metrics that only they understand.
Where do we track how we are doing in providing products and services to our customers?

Some organisations track customer satisfaction (based on surveys and other approaches). Measuring Customer Satisfaction is important, but not nearly enough! That measure is after the fact: it is a lagging indicator of what has already taken place.

Organisations need to measure and monitor how they provide products and services to their customers, which is through their cross functional processes. These processes need measurements in place to track in real time how they are performing. The result of a well-designed (and customer focused) process will lead to customer satisfaction.

Here are some examples of process measures:
• Order fulfilment i.e. percentage of orders filled completely and on time
• Schedule to Produce i.e. percentage of orders produced accurately and on-time
• Billing i.e. percentage that are accurate and on-time
With these measures in place, reward the employees who work in the process by tying their performance plans to the performance of the process. Most organisations do not do this very well.

Our regular blogs offer simple tips on how to become a process based organisation which will help your business deliver superior results and performance. If you like what you’ve read, why not sign up today.

At Ascent Management, we offer a number of value-adding solutions to secure the future of your business. Or alternatively try our free quick assessments on Process Improvement or Process Based Management .

November 2, 2014 0 comments Read More
Evaluating the processes performance is the key to success

Evaluating the processes performance is the key to success

In the past, we have focused on achieving results from your process improvement efforts. One of our key learnings from research and clients is that the development of a Process Management Process is a critical step in putting in place a process improvement mindset in an organisation. This management process shows the steps you will follow as you evaluate and improve your core processes.

The last step is always to evaluate process performance. To do that, you need to monitor and measure the performance of the process on a continuing basis.

How do you put in place what is needed to accomplish this?

During the improvement project, develop the process measures that will be used to monitor the process.
As the Process Team implements the process improvements, they will identify how the performance of the process will be measured and evaluated against customer expectations, usually following a combination of these three key criteria:

1. Time: what time steps in the process should take to complete (cycle time), such as:
• material should be delivered within 30 minutes of order;
• response time to customer request of one hour;
• an aircraft should be turned around in 30 minutes.

2. Quality: the measure of how good the process needs to be, for example:
• Order fulfilment: percentage of orders filled on-time;
• Schedule to Produce: percentage of orders produced accurately;

3. Cost: what resources the process should consume.

Measure current performance and assign the target the improved process is to achieve.

Collect results for each measure so that you know the current performance level.

The process team will work with the process owner to set targets for each measure. Some high level targets were established when the team was improving the process, so the team knows what level of performance the new process needs to achieve. With the new process now implemented and additional measures in place, new targets need to be established.

Monitor the process to close the gap between actual and targeted performance.

As the Process Team and Process Owner monitor the actual performance of the process, they will make changes in the process to achieve the targets that were established. Without this ongoing monitoring, there is no way to know how the process is actually performing. It is difficult for the process to achieve targeted performance levels without this ongoing feedback,.

Measuring and monitoring process performance provides real time feedback on how the process is performing. Since the end result of process performance is providing a product or service to a customer, this management step allows you to manage how you provide the product or service to your customer. A well-managed process provides the level of performance you are trying to achieve. A process not managed will provide inconsistent results, which you can expect your customer to notice and then respond to accordingly.

Got five minutes! Try our free quick assessments on Process Improvement or Process Based Management . Or if you like what you’ve read, why not sign up to our regular blog to find out more ways Ascent Management can help add value to your business.

October 7, 2014 0 comments Read More
Communicate your process efforts to move forward

Communicate your process efforts to move forward

Every organisation has many initiatives that are underway at any point in time. These initiatives all compete for resources and attention. Your process improvement efforts are important to those that are involved; communication is a key to these efforts being important to the rest of the organisation, and to the efforts being sustained over time.

What should be included in your communication efforts?

The impact of your process improvement projects

1. Be specific and in language that others in the organisation will understand. For example:
– specific improvements in customer service: response time to customer request reduced from 4 hours to
1 hour;
– specific impacts on product delivery: % of orders filled on-time increased from 70% to 95%.
2. Identify how the efforts impact others:
– Identify changes in workloads: address both positive and perceived negative impacts;
– Identify groups that benefited from the changes that were implemented, and the specific impact on those
groups.

How the process improvement efforts support the strategy of the organisation

• Employees want to know how what they are doing supports the strategy of the organisation. Make that connection clear.
• Each process team should know how their process and the efforts to improve the process support the strategy and operating plan in place. Use those teams to help communicate their efforts.

Some information on the benefits of a process approach

• Share your high level list of end-to-end processes. You want the organisation to understand what these are, and what they mean. This helps creates a language around process.
• Provide insight into the benefits of managing end-to-end processes. Most people do not know, so continually provide examples and make the case for the process approach.
• Provide insight into what will be different from a process approach, and how it will impact employees.

Future process improvement efforts and the impact of these efforts

• What future efforts are planned, and how will those efforts “impact me”. Keep people engaged by identifying when and how these process efforts will become real to them.

Without constant communication around your process efforts and the positive results and impacts from those efforts, it will be just another initiative that may not last. You need to not only get and keep people engaged in what the efforts are trying to accomplish, but also build a process mindset that will sustain efforts as you move forward. You will run into roadblocks. The more you have been communicating and engaging with others in the organisation, the better chance you will have of overcoming these roadblocks, and building the foundation for long term success.

We believe there are a number of reasons for a process-based approach to improving business performance. Learn more about how our approach can help you identify the pathway to improving business by taking our two free quick assessments on Process Improvement or Process Based Management .

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September 18, 2014 0 comments Read More
Achieve results from your process improvement efforts

Achieve results from your process improvement efforts

What if you’ve done everything you planned for your process improvement project, but it is not clear if you achieved the results you expected. Your process team has identified the process changes to meet the project’s objectives, and has worked with the process performers to implement these changes. There are still two important steps that need to be completed.

Firstly, the team needs to document the impact of the process changes that have been implemented and secondly, the team and the Process Owner need to implement and monitor the process measures that the team identified during the process improvement session.

How do you document the impact of the process changes?

Compare the actual results to the targets used to justify the project. To launch the project, assumptions were made to justify the benefits of the project. Compare the actual benefits to what you used in the assumptions. There are usually three aspects:
o Time: Did cycle times drop to the levels you targeted?
o Cost: Did you meet the cost targets that you assumed would be achieved? Quantify the impact in terms that key decision makers will understand and can buy into.
o Quality: Did you achieve your quality and customer satisfaction targets? Make sure that customer impacts are included, and your customer agrees with your assessment.

Identify unexpected benefits you achieved, or problems you encountered. These could be internal and/or external.
o Were there impacts on the customer you did not expect? These could be positive or negative. Document these so the process teams can learn from these impacts for future projects.
o Identify the impact on the process team, as well as others touched by the process. Each process improvement project touches different people in the organisation, and has the ability to create buy-in or resistance. Learn from each project to improve your process improvement approach so you are always creating additional buy-in.

As you document the impact of the process changes, you begin to monitor the ongoing performance of the process based on the process measures identified and put in place with the new process. Part of your “process management process” is to not only improve processes through process improvement projects, but to monitor the performance of the process on an ongoing basis.

I am happy to discuss ways in which we can provide value-adding solutions to secure the future of your business or alternatively try our two free quick assessments on Process Improvement or Process Based Management .

September 5, 2014 0 comments Read More
Include your customers in your process design

Include your customers in your process design

When we start work with an organisation, we focus primarily on the processes that impact their customers. This occurs in many of the initial steps organisations must take as they move along the journey to become process-based.

As the organisation develops its list of processes, identify those that are customer facing. As this list is prioritised for improvement initiatives, focus on the processes where there are customer issues.
You should also:
• Identify how each initiative underway impacts the customer;
• Specify the customer centric metrics for that process when the process improvement teams are launched;
• Show the customer as a separate swim lane on the process map or diagram (we usually place the customer at
the top to emphasise importance).

As a process team begins a process design or improvement session, include the customer;
• The customer can provide insight into how the process impacts them;
• The customer can tell you what is important to them (it may not be what you think);
• The more a customer understands what you can provide, the better that process can be aligned to the
customer expectations;
• As you improve the process, focusing on what is important to the customer will help simplify the process,
which leads to improved customer and employee satisfaction.

Results from our Process Based Management Quick Assessments indicate that most organisations do not include customers directly in their process efforts. More startling is that up to 50% of those responding indicated their customers suffer due to the organisations’ processes! This shows that there is much room for improvement in how organisations incorporate voice of the customer in their process efforts.

By including the customer perspective, you will be able to design customer focused business processes. If you do this, you have a much better chance of products and services meeting customer expectations and creating satisfied customers for the long term.

We believe there are many compelling reasons for a process-based approach to improving business performance. Learn more about how our approach can help you identify the pathway to improving business by taking our two free quick assessments on Process Improvement or Process Based Management .

July 21, 2014 0 comments Read More
Integrate your process diagrams into your ongoing work

Integrate your process diagrams into your ongoing work

For some time now, I have been talking about the various aspects of Process Based Management (PBM) that will help your business perform better. Improving and managing the processes in your business is an essential element of a successful PBM approach.

Mapping, or modelling, a process is a key tool that a business can use to solve a critical business issue; but never model for the sake of modelling. All too often, a process will be modelled for a specific purpose, and then that process model or diagram is never used again. If we are going to move beyond a project focus, and move to managing our processes on an ongoing basis, that has to change.

How can we use process diagrams on an ongoing basis, and integrate them into daily work?

1. Show the key metrics for that process on the process diagram. Develop and make available the current measures for those metrics on a frequent basis. By showing the measures on the diagram, it gives those managing the process the ability to see where in the process problems may be occurring.

2. Hang the process diagrams in the work area with sticky notes and a pen available nearby. Encourage those who work in the process to post notes on the diagram where problems are occurring. The process diagram should be the focus of discussions to identify how to resolve process issues.

3. Include risks and controls on the process diagrams. These may be needed for compliance reasons but also provide those responsible for managing the process the ability to see how the process design addresses these key risks and controls. This also provides everyone working in the process key insight into why certain steps are important.

4. The process diagrams and related metrics should be part of the ongoing discussion around performance. When problems arise or customer requirements change, the process diagram becomes the focus of the discussion of how to change what we currently do.

Keeping a repository of all the process diagrams is part of the foundation needed to support your ongoing process management efforts. Initially keep your repository simple (a folder on a shared drive), and then once you see the organisation is committed to actually managing processes on an ongoing basis, you can commit to a more robust tool (a business process repository and modelling solution) to manage your process management efforts.

I believe there are many compelling reasons for a process-based approach to improving business performance. Learn more about how our approach can help you identify the pathway to improving business by taking our two free quick assessments on Process Improvement or Process Based Management .

June 26, 2014 0 comments Read More
Develop a consistent approach to Process Improvement

Develop a consistent approach to Process Improvement

For some months now, I have been outlining the different elements of process management to show you how a process based management style can help your business perform at its optimum level. Whether you want to deliver more value to your customers, or simply save time and reduce costs, Ascent Management has the process management tools to help your business perform better.

Organisations that are successful at realising the benefits of process improvement projects have created a consistent methodology and approach which is followed by all process improvement teams. There are some key items that a successful process improvement approach should include:

Launch the Project Correctly

There are seven key items to set your process improvement projects up for success. These steps included goals, sponsor, training, resources, and measures. It is critical that everyone involved understand the objective of the project, and how the output of the project will be used, and what will happen next.

Utilise a Consistent Toolset

There are some key items that need to be included in a toolset that a process team will use. They are:
• Utilise a standard session structure. Use a facilitated workshop approach, or interviews followed up by group sessions. Whatever you decide on, be consistent.
• Follow the same steps to complete an improvement project. All approaches include steps to understand the current process, analyse the process, and improve the process. Identify the steps you will follow and build them into your approach.
• Identify a time frame to complete projects. The facilitated workshop approach can be completed in 4-5 days (add a few days for preparation time and follow up). Teams should begin implementing changes right away; most changes can be implemented in 60-90 days.
• Use a consistent process mapping tool supported by a standard approach. For example, our process maps use a swim lane approach (each role in the process has a swim lane).

Achieve Results Quickly

To stay on course, the organisation needs to see results from your efforts. By making sure the project is scoped correctly upfront, clear objectives are established and the team follows the standard approach, then the team will be completing the review and implementing changes within three months. Document and communicate the impact and results achieved so you can show the value of process improvement and keep the momentum going. Most importantly, a consistent approach allows the organisation to get better at process improvement and achieve results that move the organisation forward.

To find out which value adding solutions are best for your business, try our FREE five minute Process Improvement or Process Based Management quick assessments.

June 23, 2014 0 comments Read More
Process Teams: A key to Process Improvement

Process Teams: A key to Process Improvement

At Ascent Management, we know a key role in any organisational improvement effort is the Process Team. It is essential to identify the Critical Business Issues that need to be addressed as a priority by the Process Improvement Project and then form a cross functional team to improve that process (as well as a Process Owner to oversee the process). With a team leader appointed, team members should be Subject Matter Experts selected from the various functions that are impacted by the process.

When Process Teams are formed, their goal is to understand the process through process mapping and analysis (using the preferred improvement methodology of the organisation e.g. Lean) and address the business issue on which the team was based. With this understanding, and having identified the problems in the process, the team will identify and implement improvements to the process. The team also puts process measures in place so the performance of the process can be monitored.

Completion of this improvement project is where many process improvement efforts stop. Often, a team will be formed to address a project and is then dissolved. However, to manage the process effectively it is critical to take this project into an ongoing monitoring and improvement loop and create a permanent process team to do this.

Ongoing roles of the Process Team are:
• Gather measures as well as other feedback on the process;
• Actively monitor the process measures to see how the process is performing;
• Design and implement process changes needed to achieve the targets set for the process measures. For example, if a measure of procurement is to pay 99% of all invoices to take advantage of discounts, and actual performance is at 80%, the Process Team would identify and implement changes necessary to reach the target;
• Seek input from the Process Owner in the design of the process to address strategic goals or meet changing customer requirements.

Since processes are how an organisation provides products and services to its customers, it is vital to monitor how well the process is meeting customer requirements and expectations. That reality requires the Process Team to actively monitor the process, and make changes as required to keep customers satisfied. It is this continuous improvement mindset embraced by the Process Team and guided by the Process Owner which allows organisations to continually meet customer expectations.

Let us help your business when:
• Best-practice strategic analysis and business planning is required;
• Operational and management improvements are demanded to generate superior results;
• There is a need to make a measurable performance improvement to become more competitive;
• A practical course of action is needed to capitalise on growth opportunities.

Try our FREE five minute Process Improvement or Process Based Management quick assessments to find out how your business can perform better.

May 31, 2014 0 comments Read More
Focus your Process Improvement Efforts

Focus your Process Improvement Efforts

In a recent blog, I discussed launching process efforts on areas that matter (September 12, 2013 – Launch process efforts based on areas that matter). The key is to focus on initiatives that support the strategy and/or are critical to the customer. These initiatives tend to be driven by management, who is (should be) concerned about the longer-term direction of the organisation.

What typically happens in organisations is that process improvement efforts are both top down (driven by management based on strategy) and bottom up (driven by teams or departments based on pain points). Let’s look at how you could manage each of these.

Top down initiatives tend to be launched as managed projects. In another blog, I discussed how to set-up your process improvement efforts (February 20, 2014 – Set your process improvement efforts up for success). These management and initiative driven projects would follow the steps outlined in that post.

What happens with the bottom-up process improvement efforts? How do these efforts get managed?

Process Teams – If there are process improvement teams in place that are managing the process, continuous improvement efforts are built into how they manage the process. Ideas should be funnelled to the team, who would incorporate them into the process improvement approval process that has been established.

Departmental Initiatives – Often a department will initiate an effort to improve a process in their area. This could be initiated by individuals or managers in the department. If the process effort remains only in their area, the risk (and reality) is that they will sub-optimise the overall process: improve what they touch, but break other parts that impact other departments, leading to an end-to-end process that performs no better or maybe worse than before the department effort.

How do you address this situation?

o All improvement efforts need to be screened by a Process Office or Process Owner; if these are not in place, use the Corporate Office (CEO, COO) as the filter. The purpose is to prioritise all the efforts to focus on those that matter. This needs to be a fast (responsive) step, not tied up in bureaucracy.

o All departments who have a role in a process need to be part of the improvement effort. This turns department efforts into cross functional projects. Again, responsiveness (speed) is an imperative, so develop a “process” on how to approach and manage these efforts.

The bottom line is that you need to put in place a mechanism to quickly screen department level process improvement ideas. You want these ideas to be brought forward and acted on to engage many parts of the organisation in process improvement. There is a balance:

1. You need to prioritise and align these ideas so you are focused on areas that matter (strategy driven or customer focused);

2. You need to act quickly so you keep people engaged and enthused about providing ideas. If you ask for ideas, but don’t act, people will stop providing them.

At Ascent Management, we believe there are many compelling reasons for a process-based approach to improving business performance. Learn more about how our approach can help you identify the pathway to improving business by taking our two FREE five minute Process Improvement or Process Based Management quick assessments.

May 15, 2014 2 comments Read More
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