There are usually three main reasons for companies outgrowing their processes. Let’s consider these plus ways to keep the processes fit for purpose.
Imagine brewing a new beer. If you don’t follow the 10 key stages of the brewing process, the product won’t taste great. If you’re lucky and create the perfect beer but don’t record what you did, you won’t be able to recreate it.
From the start, be clear what the process is, and record it. This means you can repeat it, and as your team expands, others can also repeat it.
Imagine baking affordable artisan bread. Initially sales are excellent. Then requests start for gluten free, all organic etc. Should you adapt your recipe to satisfy these requests? Do they fit the original vision?
Listening to customers is important, but you also need to consider your own needs/business vision. Trying to suit everyone will almost certainly result in a process that no longer works and an unsatisfactory product.
However, there may be requests worth incorporating. Customer feedback can help gauge how and when to expand the business. But before doing this, ensure the changes fit into your core process.
Some companies want or need accreditations or certifications, for example ISO9001, to compete in a market. They write a procedure that ticks the boxes for each requirement but is not created holistically and doesn’t align to the core process. People perceive it as a bolt on task – not something that’s essential or needing proper care and attention, so it is neglected.
Processes should be designed to align with the core processes so that all aspects and activities are considered to be part of job the person does.
If you do not want to outgrow your processes you will need to create an agile and responsive culture.
This requires joined up thinking and collaborative working, being open to change and empowering your teams to be creative and to make change happen.
A good way to build this culture is through Process Working Groups. These groups are given responsibility for setting the process, reviewing its successes and looking for improvements.
Members of these groups should be selected, not only for their knowledge and understanding of the current process, but for their energy, their edge, their ability to enthuse others and their capacity to get the job done.
The working group should be focussed on the bigger picture and must be open to feedback. It needs to be objective when reviewing the success of the process.
Remember things change, processes grow and evolve and sometimes things just don’t work out how you would have wanted them to. Do not see these as failures, instead view them as lessons to learn from and improve.
The working groups should also be involved in the initial implementation and will need to be a constant champion for the new process. Communicating the change and the reasons for it, is key. People should know why they are doing something, not just what they need to do.
For some people performance reviews and audits can be a stressful part of their job.
As a business owner or manager, if you want to keep your processes agile and responsive you will need to change this perception. You need to know that the work is being done and the processes are being followed, but equally you don’t want your team so stressed that they turn each process into a tick box just to be sure they can get through the performance review.
One way to help reduce the stress is to ensure the team understands that the review is also about the process itself – not just the person carrying it out. This more holistic approach allows you to complete process-based auditing (checking that the process is effective and efficient) and avoid the ‘tick box’ mentality.
Process audits should look at:
These audits must be a true reflection of the process and be carried out by people independent of the task/project or the process working group.
The feedback from these audits along with any other performance measures should go to the Process Working Group for review. The auditor and working group should agree any corrective actions needed and identify any changes or improvements to the process.
I hope these ideas are useful as you help companies to align their processes with business growth.
Joanna Strahan is founder of C2C Process Group, and an expert in business improvements, management systems, achieving industry accreditations, auditing and inspections.
Process Collaborators offers expert support in the implementation of process and risk-based approaches, driving operational efficiencies, compliance monitoring and collaborative working as well as helping businesses ensure high standards of quality, safety, and sustainability.