How to Fix a Process
February 09, 2021
What is a 'Process'
A process is a succession of steps completed to achieve a result.
Often processes are represented in a process map or process flow.
Process Map Details:
- Who - the people/roles who take action
- What - the activities performed
- When - the sequence of activities
- Where - the system(s) involved in each activity or where they take place
The ‘Why’ is typically not included either. Though it is useful to include the Key Performance Metric (KPI) that is important to each activity such as the time it should take or the level of quality that must be met in the activity.
How to assess a process
- Know the current state
- Find the core problem
- Create the future state
- Take action
- Ensure the fix sticks
1. Know the current stateThe first step is getting clarity on what happens today.
It begins by selecting the first process you’re going to work through and being clear on the first action in that process and the last, to be carve out the scope of the discussion. Select a few people who perform the process and do so regularly, ideally from the different departments and roles that are involved. These folks are brought together to lay out the current process. If the group meets in person, it’s helpful to have a big sheet of paper to work on and loads of different coloured post-its and pens. This can also be done virtually through mapping tools like Visio, Lucid Chart and shared screens via Zoom or GoToMeeting.
To start, ask participants which departments and roles are involved in the process and include on the paper. Then talk through each activity including the order in which it’s performed, who performs it, what systems/documents are used, what decisions are made along the way, and the alternate paths the process can take based on those decisions.
Once all the activities are documented, and the team agrees, go through each activity again asking ‘are there any challenges or headaches with this activity?’ Note these in a different coloured post-it or comment box on each activity. These will be collected later in an ‘Improvement Matrix’ to ensure each gets resolved. It’s also helpful to note how this challenge impacts the business, either by adding cost, duration, effort, or reducing quality.
2. Find the core problemOnce challenges have been identified, documented, and measured, it’s time to understand why they occur.
Understanding the cause, beyond the symptom, ensures the solution permanently resolves the issue. Include each problem in an ‘Improvement Matrix’ and note the origin.
Most problems originate from three areas:
- Process – wrong process in place, not being adhered to, not up to date
- People – knowledge gap, lack of ownership, unclear roles, not enough staff
- Technology – wrong system in place, under-utilized system
Tools such as 5 Whys and Fishbone Diagram can be used for a deeper dive.
3. Create the future stateWith the core problems in hand, we get to the fun part! It’s time to create the Future State.
Gather the same team together and again lay down the first and last activity that must take place. Have the Current State and Improvement Matrix on hand for reference. The Team walks through each step they believe adds value to the process, making changes to who completes it, where its completed, the depth to which it’s done, etc. as they see fit. Redundant steps are removed and activities are shifted to appropriate resources as needed.
Once the Future State is complete, it’s helpful for the Team to walk through it alongside the Improvement Matrix to ensure the flow accounts for all the challenges and changes needed. Then it’s time to assign an owner to the process. This person will be accountable for leading the following activities.
4. Take actionThis step is all about realizing the future state.
The first component helps identify the order in which improvements should be introduced, based on the value for the effort involved. Update the Benefit and Effort cells, using a Benefit and Effort Matrix, and note these metrics in the Improvement Matrix to see the score for each item. Then sort by highest score to see a suggested order of implementation. in the Improvement Matrix to see the score for each item. Then sort by highest score to see a suggested order of implementation.
With this in hand, it’s time for the process owner to share the future process with everyone who takes a part in it. It’s important to discuss the Improvement Matrix items that were identified, share the process and why changes were made, provide a timeline for how these changes will be rolled out, and share the communication channel(s) that should be used if process users have additional comments or concerns.
Weekly or Monthly Improvement meetings may also be helpful to check in with the team on how improvements are coming along.
5. Ensure the fix sticksNow that the solution has been implemented, we’ll want to keep an eye it to ensure results.
The metrics, measured at the beginning of the process, are a handy KPI to compare against to ensure things are moving in the right direction.
The Process Owner is accountable for reviewing metrics, adjusting the process as needed, updating related training documents, and ensuring the process is being followed.