The term “business process improvement” can be very overwhelming if you think about all that it can apply to in your business. It is a very broad term but one that can have a critical impact in many areas. “Process” in this context essentially means, “how you get work done.” In all types and sizes of organization (for profit and non-profit), there is an ongoing need to assess and improve how efficiently they operate. Organizations who think they have no inefficiencies are more than likely kidding themselves. There are always opportunities to improve your operations.
What is Business Process Improvement?
It is looking at specific areas of your business with a more critical eye and assessing how effective and efficient it is, and then identifying specific and sustainable actions to improve those areas. To do this assessment and improvement, you can use well-established tools and methodologies. We use the term “tools” because they can be used in a variety of situations over and over throughout your business.
The following are just some of the benefits of applying Business Process Improvement (BPI) to your organization:
- Increased productivity and lower operational costs
- Improved quality products and services
- Increased employee and customer satisfaction
- Positive impact to your bottom line
One of the main objectives of BPI is to better optimize the resources you already have. I know this is something that all companies could benefit from, but many don’t think they can take the time to focus on it. However, in today’s world, you can’t afford not to because there’s a good chance your competitors are trying to gain an edge by being more efficient.
If I were to ask you this question, how would you answer: “Where do you see “waste” in your business?” Please pause here for 30 seconds to really think about that. Here are some typical examples just to get you started:
- Employees are waiting around for something they need for their job
- Things are having to be reworked because they are incorrect or poor quality
- There is too much inventory of a product or component
- High potential employees are bored
My next question would be “What are you actively doing about these areas of waste and what are your employees doing about it?” Some of you might say, “I just don’t have time to stop and look at my business in that level of detail.” IHowever, you may eventually get to the point when you can’t afford NOT to look at your business that way. Many times companies are not able to move to the next level because their processes are so inefficient. Do you ever feel like something is weighing you down? It could be your inefficiencies.
Where can business process improvement be applied within a business like yours? The answer is in EVERY single part of your business: manufacturing, distribution, front office, how you get your daily work done, and how you interact with your customers.
What if this idea of process improvement for your business could become something that you and your team were to do all the time? That’s called “continuous” improvement (CI). Nothing fancy — just the idea that the culture of your workplace has the mindset of always looking at where inefficiencies are in their jobs. Who better to know firsthand where the pain points are than the employees who are actually doing the work day in and day out. One of their challenges may be that they’ve gotten so used to doing things a certain way, and they may not realize it could be done better. Or perhaps they may not feel empowered to actually make the change they have in mind. This is related to one of the benefits I mentioned earlier, and it’s improved employee satisfaction. Think about it. What if your business had a culture of this continuous improvement and the team was constantly looking for ways to improve the work they do which in turn, helps the overall business?
Here is quote I ran across that speaks to this idea of process improvement: “A rule of thumb is that a lousy process will consume ten times as many hours as the work itself requires.” -Bill Gates. If this statement is half correct, just think about how much time, money, and resources the average business is losing.
In talking with a friend who owns a very successful business about this idea of inefficiencies, I asked him if he could jot down areas he felt his business could improve upon and he said “I can give you 2 pages in 10 minutes.” When asked further why he wasn’t been working on them, he said, “I’m not sure where to start.” This is where the idea of having specific tools (or methods) can be very impactful.
In our next article we will take a look at some of these tools for your business.