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Continuous process improvement: make it business as usual without the revolution

Improvement

As competitors and market expectations keep moving ahead, standing still as a business means you’ll be in danger of being left behind. The focus for many organisations then is on how to turn business process improvement into something that is truly embedded in the way the business runs.

The real value comes when business process management is a living and breathing part of the way you operate – an ongoing process – not just something you refer to or use when something goes wrong. So how do you build and keep up the momentum?

Start from the top, value every level

Like most changes to a business culture, support for embedding continuous process improvement into your everyday has to come from the top. Managers and leaders in the business must walk the talk, give staff time to work on improving what they do, and recognise and communicate successes.

Change has to start at the top, but to transform “the way we work”, leaders must also listen to ideas from every level of the business and support putting them in place.  Leaders must recognise that everyone within their organisation can and should contribute across every point of the customer journey.

Make processes simple & accessible

It seems like a basic thing, but it’s critical – to keep process management alive, processes must be accessible and simple. When processes are simple to find, and easy to use and improve, it removes the logistical barriers that are often the death of business process management efforts.  Simple steps like embedding process links into everyday systems, including process improvement in new staff inductions, and keeping change visible in newsletters and on company intranets can make a big difference. All these steps work together to make process management easier – and just another part of everyday work.

Create incentives to engage

While linking process improvement to individual KPIs and performance objectives is vital, so too is encouraging engagement. After all, you’re asking your people to proactively look for ways they could be working better. That takes a level of engagement that goes far beyond clocking in and clocking out.  Here are several ideas that can help to create and retain engagement, including:

  • Give prizes

Boost participation and engagement with small rewards like a chocolate bar to the person with the most up up-to-date processes or dashboard.

  • Feed people

Regular meetings to discuss business process management are essential – offering food as an additional selling point on the invite can help get people to prioritise the meeting in their schedule.

  • Make it a game

Gamify process improvement – set challenges and competitions, with spot prizes for employees who have provided feedback or who have up to date processes. Or start a quiz or treasure hunt where staff can find the answers embedded in processes.

Here are some additional ideas your business may want to consider:

  • Perform a role play (or make a video/animation if your budget allows) to demonstrate the benefits of easy-to-follow processes for both your staff and your customers
  • Set up a Heroes (top users) and Villains (infrequent users) leaderboard
  • Train staff and ensure expectations around process management disciplines are clear at the point of induction
  • Hold drop-in sessions for users to have their questions answered by a process champion
  • Build up a strong champion/super user network so momentum is maintained in all areas of the business
  • Hold process improvement ‘hack’ days to get people thinking outside the box
  • Work through process pain points as a team to come up with the best improvement solutions
  • Set up a dedicated time slot for completing process related tasks
  • Provide guidelines for dealing with feedback/improvement suggestions i.e. expected response times.

Consistency beats brilliance

At the end of the day, unleashing a culture of unstoppable improvement doesn’t require a revolutionary approach. With a few basic steps applied consistently, the results can be phenomenal – it’s about leadership from the top and acknowledging, encouraging and facilitating involvement from every level of business. After all, consistency beats brilliance most of the time.


About the author:

This article was written by Ivan Seselj, CEO of Promapp, developer of cloud based process management software.