Any organisation that scales is bound to have some growing pains. If you’re not moving forward and consistently revamping and innovating your businesses, you might as well be standing still.
Process improvement can help your business overcome these hurdles more efficiently, allowing you to scale with fewer issues. There are many different types of process improvement, but they all have the same goal: making things better.
This could be accomplished by improving customer satisfaction, reducing waste, or increasing efficiency. No matter the focus, the aim is to make changes that will positively impact your business.
The importance of continuous process improvement
Businesses need to continually review and improve their processes to maintain a high level of efficiency, productivity, and quality. Process improvement can help organisations to scale more efficiently by reducing waste, improving communication, and increasing transparency.
Waste can come in many forms, such as time spent on tasks that do not add value, motion wasted when moving between jobs, or resources wasted through poor utilisation. By identifying and eliminating sources of waste, organisations can improve their efficiency and productivity, which, in turn, can help them to scale more efficiently.
Help teams become better
To scale more efficiently, your organisation needs to be able to rely on its teams to perform at their best. Process improvement can help with this by providing a framework for teams to work within, which enables them to identify and rectify areas of inefficiency.
When scaling up, there is always an increase in demand placed upon teams which can often lead to a deterioration in performance as they become overwhelmed. This is where process improvement can make a real difference; helping teams to work more efficiently can take some of the pressure off and allow them to maintain a high output level.
How to approach process improvement
You can take several approaches when looking to improve processes, but ensuring that the right direction is taken for your organisation is essential. One size does not fit all in process improvement, so it is important to tailor your approach to your specific needs.
What is the DMAIC approach?
DMAIC is a five-phase problem-solving practical approach – useful as a framework for improving or designing new processes. The DMAIC methodology was developed by statistician Walter Shewhart and stands for Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, and Control.
Define the opportunity for improvement
The first step in the DMAIC process is defining the problem or opportunity you want to improve, which includes understanding the current process, explaining the goals of the improvement project, and understanding the customer’s requirements.
Measure the performance of your existing processes
Step number two is to measure the current process performance. Measurement techniques such as collecting data on the process, analysing the data to identify issues, and creating a baseline for comparison after the improvement project is completed are used.
Analyse the process to find defects and root causes
Moving on to the third stage, we need to analyse the root causes of the problems identified in the measurement phase. Possible strategies include brainstorming possible causes, using cause-and-effect diagrams, and performing statistical analysis to identify the most likely root causes.
Improve processes by addressing root causes
The fourth step is to improve the process by implementing solutions to address the root causes identified in the analysis phase. This may involve changes to the process, new or revised policies and procedures, training of employees, or new technology.
Control any improved processes and assess future process performance to correct deviations
The fifth and final step of the DMAIC approach is to control the process to ensure sustainable improvements. One way to do this is by putting in place mechanisms to monitor the process and identify any problems that may arise in the future.
This final step also ensures that the team responsible for the process improvement understands how to maintain the gains and is given the necessary resources.
Whether you’re a seasoned professional or an amateur when it comes to pinpointing problems and reworking your process, there are a few best practices to keep in mind.
Map out existing practices
Common sense tells us that if you don’t have a map, you won’t be able to reach your destination, and the same holds for diagnosing issues with your business processes.
You must map out your process clearly to ensure your team can follow it, which could result in challenges from onboarding new hires to customer satisfaction.
Involve all stakeholders in the process improvement journey
It’s critical to involve all stakeholders in the process improvement journey right from the start. Doing so ensures that everyone is aware of the changes and why they’re being made. This buy-in is essential to ensuring successful implementation and sustaining improvements over time.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different approaches
There are many different approaches you can take to process improvement. The key is to find the ones that work best for your organisation and experiment with them to see what works best.
An example of these approaches is to standardise your processes. Standardisation will make it easier for new employees to learn how things are done and for your existing employees to train others. It also makes it easier to document your processes so that you can track and improve them over time.
If you try one approach and find it doesn’t fit within your company procedures or resonate with your team, then there is no harm in trying a different direction until you find one that works for your team.
Automate whenever possible
Automation is a significant contributor to improving company processes and increasing productivity. By automating processes, organisations can eliminate waste and improve efficiency.
There are several ways to automate processes. One way is to use software to automate tasks, which could be anything from using Excel macros to more complex software that integrates with other systems.
Another way to automate processes is by using robots or other physical devices. These can automate welding, fabricating, or packaging tasks and frees up your team to focus on other high-priority tasks.
A real-world example
The company grew so fast in the early days that it could barely keep up with customer demand. Naturally, this circumstance led to much improvisation and ad-hoc decision-making, creating chaos and inefficiencies.
Over time, Zendesk has slowly but surely implemented better processes and procedures, which has helped them keep up with their growth while becoming more efficient.
One example is their use of data and analytics to inform their decision-making. By analysing customer data, they can identify trends and areas for improvement. This has created a sleeker process and allowed better decision-making around resources.
Another way Zendesk has improved its process is by improving its customer support forms and automating customer follow-up. By improving these processes, they streamlined operations and increased customer satisfaction.
Summing it all up
There is no denying that scaling comes with its own set of challenges, but with a bit of scrutiny and a careful plan, you can improve your process and take the growing pains in stride.
By assessing what is and isn’t working in your current system, you can make changes that will help your business save time and money while improving quality.
Are you ready to scale and need help figuring out where to start?
Ellivate can help you Go Next Level. Contact us here.