Improving processes? This first…


Processes in your business are what makes a customer requirement a non-surprising event – your people know what to do to hit the expectations that you’ve put out into the market.  They know what comes first, what comes next, who does what, what they use, and it all flows like a swift-moving happy river to the sea no matter what.



I know a couple of outstanding improvement specialists who have never come across a business process where they didn’t create significant ROI for their clients, and when I ask them how they do it, the answer is “we look”.

So why aren’t smooth-flowing rivers the norm?  Lots of reasons, but the foundation lies with our usual suspect – structure.

This is the question I ask to see if a process has any chance at being useful:  “If we decide that this show should be running twice as fast as this, who do we go and see“.

The worst answers are a shrug.  A slight improvement is ‘we’re working on that‘.  The most usual one is ‘we’ve kicked off a project to map all of the processes in the business‘.  The sadly rare one is “we’d go and see Jill“.

Only the last answer is the first foundation sign of an effective process.  If someone is accountable for the process, we have a start.  Now the next question:

Tell me the authorities that Jill has about this process“.

Worst answer (apart from none) “Jill is a very persuasive person, she can get things done“.  This is not a sign of a work process.  It’s a non-sustainable popularity and/or political contest.

Best answer: “Jill’s role has what we call coordinative authority regarding the process, she can be informed whenever she likes about how it’s going, she can call meetings of everyone involved and assign tasks, and every person involved knows this is part of their actual job, not just a side-project.”

Until you’ve got things set up so we hear the above, don’t waste the time of improvement specialists.  It’s not fair to them or you.

Once you have, it’s time to go to work.  Your investment will be well rewarded.

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