The blogs I have written over last couple of weeks have been about avoiding the temptation of “canned” strategies, and aspiring towards palatable organizational goals. Internal business processes are the steps companies can take in order to achieve its goals, and subsequently, fulfill its strategy. Business Process Improvement (BPI) is a well-documented methodology through which an organization may systematically analyze their current business processes. The underlying goal of this approach is to find where there maybe shortfalls within these formal or informal processes that may be addressed and optimized in order to achieve more efficient results. This school of thought in the Organizational Behavior field emerged at IBM in the 1980's under the leadership of John F. Akers. As business functions were moving further away from production, and were more entangled with service and support processes, Akers saw the potential for a RADICAL change in the performance of departments within IBM, rather than the INCREMENTAL (ie. TQM) changes that were the norm at the time.
The classic Six Step approach that was formulated by Akers at IBM in the 1980's and formalized by H. James Herrington in his 1991 book Business Process Improvement is just as useful 25 years later in helping organizations seeking to improve their business processes:
- Selection of Process Teams and Leaders
- Process Analysis Training
- Process Analysis Interview
- Process Documentation
- Review Cycle
- Problem Analysis
While all of these steps are necessary in establishing a systematic and effective approach at optimizing your organizations business processes, I can't seem to get past the first step without wanting to explore this “identification” phase of business processes further.
There is a quote that I love which helps add a certain artistic flare to this step of the process. It comes from Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Alice is asking the Cheshire Cat for direction. The Cat Replies: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to”. Alice says: “I don't much care where”. To which the cat wisely retorts: “Then it doesn't much matter which way you go”. The reason I'm pausing on this first step is to focus on the gravity of first accurately identifying your business processes prior to attempting to improve them is beautifully described by this interchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat. An organization can devote unlimited resources towards improving various business processes, but if they haven't actually identified which processes were faulty to begin with, this is an effort in futility….a costly one.
In our partnership with our clients, we are devoted to seeking out root problems. We often have clients that want us to help them perform certain processes more efficiently. Sounds straight forward, does it not? This inevitably always turns out to be a more complicated process than initially imagined by the client. In order to know how to improve processes, organizations need to know how these processes are currently being performed. Are these “formal” (documented) processes? Are these “informal” processes that are done differently depending on who is working that day? What are these processes seeking to accomplish? There is a great deal of discovery that needs to be done on the front end of these discussions simply to identify the processes that are actually in place, and more importantly, what they are in place in order to accomplish.
In all of our dealings with our clients we seek ALIGNMENT. Alignment across departments, alignment from the C-Suite Executives to the interns, Alignment between our client's core values and their business processes. Alignment can only be achieved through open and honest communication. If you would like to discuss how you can improve the business processes you currently have in place, please give us a call. We will begin this discussion by identifying your processes accurately. Then we can focus on improving them through diligent execution of steps 2-6 detailed above.
Written by Timothy Robinson, Senior Account Executive at Vantage Point Solutions Group, LLC