Process. System. Behaviour.
Outdated Process Series
Every process in an organization should be designed to either add value or to be a necessary part of an activity that adds value; and any process that does neither of these should be changed or eliminated. Previous articles in this series discussed the challenges of identifying outdated and inefficient processes, and looked at observation as a tool for driving business process improvement. This article will discuss why observing a process in isolation isn’t sufficient to fully understand whether it can or should be changed to drive value.
Each process in an organization generally has a management operating system governing it and the behavior of its participants driving with it. When a process is observed without taking these two components into consideration, the ultimate analysis can only offer a limited view on any of its inefficiencies and shortcomings. To truly understand the capacity for improvement, we need to use a systematic approach to look at all three elements together.
Management Operating Systems
In order to measure and manage a process, management operating systems are put in place to track key process performance indicators, measure process results, and generate performance data, among other functions. Observing a process cannot be effective if it’s done independent of whatever management operating system is behind it, and if the data the system generates isn’t optimal.
When it comes to data, more is not always better, and can, in fact, be worse; and this is a good place to start when determining whether a system is helping or hindering process efficiency. The ideal type and quantity of data will cover all necessary metrics related value creation without clouding the analysis with unnecessary information that doesn’t drive insight. Often, organizations mistake collecting a high volume of data for collecting the right data, and end up with an inaccurate understanding of their process productivity and effectiveness.
Process improvements can often by driven by simply improving the quality and/or quantity of the process related information being tracked, reported or analyzed by the management operating system.
Even the most masterfully crafted process can fail if the appropriate behaviour of its participants is not in place. Conversely, a poorly designed process may be kept afloat by talented and dedicated staff. When observing a process, it’s necessary to pay attention to the behaviour within and around it, and how that behaviour affects its effectiveness in order to truly understand where and how the process needs to be improved.
When observing behaviour, it’s important to start by analyzing whether managers have clearly communicated their expectation to their team and set appropriate targets. It’s also necessary to look at whether process participants were adequately trained and equipped, and whether they were given access to the correct system elements in order to be able to optimally participate in the process.
Usually, when aspects of behaviour don’t match best practices, the failure doesn’t stem from workers’ poor intentions. More often then not, when they receive clear instructions and are appropriately trained and equipped, correct behaviours can quickly be implemented to drive process improvements and yield maximum value.
To truly assess process effectiveness, it’s essential to look beyond the structure and qualities of the process itself, to evaluate its management operating system and the behaviours of its participants. In taking this holistic approach, the operational shortfalls that need to be addressed will become clear.