Welcome to part two of this three-part series on Business Process Improvement (or BPI). In part one I referenced Seth Godin’s quote, “We’re so busy doing our jobs, we can’t get any work done,” and it’s true. The combination of workload compression and dysfunctional processes is creating an environment where we know that there is a better way but continue to SALY (Same as Last Year) the process.
We rationalize continuing to utilize outdated and ineffective processes by telling ourselves that it will be faster to just get the work done and out the door, rather than spend the time to optimize and standardize processes. And that’s probably correct if you’re thinking in the moment. But to grow, we have to push back against the “just get it done” mentality and encourage the development of better business processes.
I previously discussed how increased workload and dysfunctional processes create bottlenecks, which in turn decreases capacity. Today I’ll outline how you can use some of the same business process improvement (BPI) techniques we use at XCM to reduce bottlenecks and increase capacity while providing you with the visibility necessary to run your business.
Lean Six Sigma: The Gold Standard
Many methodologies focus on developing a more efficient business process. At XCM, we utilize Lean Six Sigma (LSS) both internally and at client sites because it focuses on balancing efficiency and quality to create an effective process. The balance leads to higher productivity while reducing errors through process design and optimization.
“The firms that use Lean Six Sigma are leaders in process improvement because they leverage a proven framework and methodology,” says Arianna Campbell, a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and Director at Boomer Consulting, Inc. Boomer Consulting, Inc. has helped hundreds of CPA firms improve their processes and see significant results using Lean Six Sigma.
“Firms that try to improve processes on an ad hoc basis miss key elements and opportunities to find efficiencies and quality,” Campbell says. “There’s a definite process to process improvement, and using Lean Six Sigma allows firms to increase capacity, improve process effectiveness, increase consistency in their work, and ultimately enjoy better client service and satisfaction.”
Techniques to Facilitate the Process
Two organizations going through business process improvement using the same methodology may very well come out of the process with very different, but equally effective, processes – that’s the beauty of BPI. However, there are a few things that can help facilitate the process for any organization.
Accept that change must occur. Especially now, change cannot be stopped – priorities can shift, disappear, or appear seemly overnight. Creating and enforcing better business processes provides organizations with the speed and agility necessary to deal effectively with these changing priorities.
Recognize that communication is critical during every step. Getting buy-in from everyone affected by potential process changes is necessary. Without effective communication, that may not happen. Make sure that everyone involved knows their role and understands that the goal is to improve their ability to do their jobs.
Identify the most effective process as you work through BPI, keeping in mind that efficient and effective aren’t necessarily the same. For any given process, if more than one person completes it, there is likely more than one method or procedure being followed. It’s important to understand WHY those differences are occurring. If one process is more efficient but isn’t capturing the necessary data, it isn’t as effective – and may be creating another process to capture the rest of the data.
Acknowledge that not all processes are simple and predictable. There are times when the work coming in doesn’t always take one distinct path, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose workflow consistency. If your processes have multiple pathways, it’s possible to include each option in the workflow and allow for that decision while keeping the remainder of the workflow path intact.
The Importance of Flexibility – and Technology
To be successful, organizations need the flexibility to recognize changes or disruptions that may negatively impact business processes. Yes, standardization can help, but being flexible provides the ability to leverage the change and identify which business processes are the most effective. Future-facing organizations will use advanced technologies such as RPA, AI, and machine learning to embed their processes in daily activities.
An organization’s ability to adapt can be exponentially improved by matching business process principles to technology platforms like XCM – empowering team members and increasing their capacity to produce. Technology provides you with additional tools to better measure the effectiveness of your teams, set standards of excellence, and continually improve your outcomes.
Effective business processes, supported by technology, can give you control over how work is allocated to the most skilled, available, or top-performing staff. It can minimize bottlenecks in workflow and give you control over reviews, signoffs, and work quality. It allows you to set priorities and balance the urgent tasks with the important tasks that may have more strategic value.
Effective business processes get you out of “busy” and into valuable “work.”
Look for part three of our BPI series, on the benefits of continuous improvement, in July on the Boomer Consulting Blog!
Interested in learning how XCM can help you? Contact us to find out.