Don’t just change the process if people aren’t following the existing one
Process improvement is process improvement, right?
Many people who get immersed in process improvement practices have such a focus on improving the process, that we don’t know when to pull up on the reigns and consider whether it’s the right approach.
For example, I’ve noticed several situations lately at clients that I’m coaching of people working on process improvement when the process wasn’t the real problem. For example, I heard the following: “our old process really wasn’t that bad, we just weren’t following it.”
If that were the problem statement, process could be the answer if a bad process was the reason people weren’t following it. But that wasn’t the case. In some cases, people lacked awareness of the process. For others, they lacked the process being given a priority by the leadership of the organization. For still others, they lacked the skill to deliver the process. Yet despite all of these truer root causes, the team diligently set about trying to make the process better.
To be fair, any process can be made better. None of this could be considered wasted effort. But without other actions and improvements, it would never yield the improvements desired.
Before rushing ahead with a process mapping and improvement effort, consider some of the following questions. Some of these may seem basic, but yet I see people not thinking these basics through. If our process was much better than it is today, would it yield the performance gains we desire? How much better is today’s best process compared to ours? What else besides our process might be holding us back? How much better could we get just by executing our current process with more discipline?
Please understand that one of the last things I want to do is give people excuses for not doing process improvements. But since the objective of process improvement is to improve results, then we better be darn sure this is what we are going to accomplish.
Reflection question: How do you know when working on the process is what’s going to yield the desired results?