Making internal process improvements is a must. Becoming faster, cheaper, more effective, less wasteful — these evolutions are necessary in order for a business to succeed.
Unfortunately, there is a common perception among business leaders that if their business is going well, there is little to improve. Research suggests otherwise. Business leaders consistently rate their processes as being in better shape compared to the employees that actually carry them out.
This by itself is a good enough reason to take a hard look at your business processes. But there are other benefits to making internal process improvements that you may not realize. Regardless of what process you decide to target for improvements, these five benefits can help drive growth, reduce inefficiencies, improve employee effectiveness and deliver a better customer experience.
Processes and people are two critical elements of every business. The trouble is, a great deal of business process information lives inside peoples' heads and is not documented in any meaningful way. There is no visibility or understanding across business segments, and employees do not fully appreciate where they fit in the puzzle.
To improve your business processes, you have to visualize them. This requires that you identify information from the key players involved in the process and document it. This exercise, in and of itself, will provide a great deal of insight into how your business delivers value. This will help you identify gaps, bottlenecks, redundancies and opportunities for improvement as well as mitigate the risk of losing key employees and the critical information that often leaves with them.
When you document a business process, you make it repeatable and teachable. This enables leaders to identify and address resource constraints and improves employee onboarding and training.
With a clear understanding of the employee's role and which business processes are impacted, onboarding and training can be completed more quickly, with greater focus and clearer objectives. Furthermore, a repeatable process can be improved over time as you evaluate what works and what doesn't.
Employees rarely have a clear understanding about the complete impact of their work and where they play a critical role in their organization. Typically, they are assigned a role with associated tasks and complete those tasks following the same procedure as they were taught — regardless of whether that procedure is actually the best way to carry out their job.
When employees are given visibility into your business processes and what role they play in a process, they can better understand the purpose of their position and the desired objectives. With this comprehensive understanding, employees can uncover creative new ways of achieving those objectives and identify opportunities to reduce duplication and increase effectiveness.
When you can visualize your business processes and begin to make internal process improvements, you gain a deeper understanding about how your organization delivers value to customers. Many businesses struggle with conveying to their customers how they differ from their competitors. Often, this is because the stakeholders aren't familiar with the unique ways that their organization carries out its work — not because there's no difference to discuss.
Gaining insight into your processes can help you pinpoint your differentiators and communicate more effectively how your organization delivers value to your customers helping you stand out from the crowd.
When your employees can visualize your business processes and have a clearer understanding of their role and objectives, they can better communicate with customers and address their needs. The customer onboarding, training and service experience can be completed more quickly, with greater focus and clearer objectives.
For example, if different teams are involved in customer-facing business processes, they may not be aware of each other's work. Once you begin to extract, visualize and systematically improve these processes, however, they'll learn about where they're duplicating efforts and where their objectives could be better aligned.
When you carry out an internal process improvement, you'll likely find some bottleneck to open or redundancy to eliminate and drive value for your business as a result. However, there are more benefits to derive from this exercise than many leaders realize. The five outcomes described in this article underscore how the act of identifying and documenting your processes alone can improve your business. Crucially, however, this has to be done in a repeatable, measurable way — otherwise, it will be challenging to derive and store the insights you gain. That's why innovation challenges serve as ideal tools when undertaking any process improvement effort.