Reducing waste is a must these days in our race to stop climate change getting any worse. But why stop there? We're passionate about sustainability here at Lucidity, and we think it should inform all the work we do. And that's why the next stage in our series on business process is about getting rid of what's not needed. So grab your rubbish bag, and let's get to started with the waste removal.
If you've been following our posts on reviewing your business processes, by now you'll have understood why continuous improvement is important, identified who you need to speak to and captured the stages of your current processes. What's next? If we apply what we already know about the purpose of process improvement - to streamline the steps we take to reach a particular goal, or deliver a particular activity - then it's sensible to make sure that each of those steps are working for you. The next part of the review means getting rid of what's not working.
To get to business processes that really work, you need to take time to consider in detail each of the steps you mapped in the previous stage. We do this by asking four simple questions:
Why is this step needed?
What is it adding to the overall aim or goal of the process?
Would doing something different - making changes to the step - lead to a better outcome?
What would be lost if this step was removed completely?
To help with the answers, we encourage our clients to think about wastes. This idea comes from the Lean Six Sigma methodology, which identifies wastes as 'non-value adding' steps, or steps in a process that are not required to complete it successfully. Originally designed for manufacturing, we've adapted the list of eight wastes to a set of five that work best for our clients:
This approach helps us to consider each step in a process to identify and remove anything that's not working well.
Do your processes include waiting, such as for responses from other departments - confirmation, forms, or other inputs? Can this time be reduced? Or are you working to deadlines that don't reflect the needs of your clients or customers?
Do you struggle with information that's wrong or missing? How could you improve the information you need? Or do you focus time and energy on producing a quality that's just not required?
Do you make the best use of the skills, knowledge and experiences across your team? How can you tap into this existing talent more effectively? Or are you expecting too much of your staff, giving them tasks to do that fall outside of their area of expertise without appropriate training or support?
Do you rely on manual processes, that involve passing information - often on paper - between different people or groups? How could this be changed?
Are you producing too much or too little of any one thing? Or are errors meaning you have to re-do work you're already done?
Thinking through these questions for each step of your process - and for your process as a whole -will help you answer the four questions we posed above. And this will help you refine your process so it's quicker, delivering the right amount at the right time and making the best use of people's skills.
As with the other stages, it's easier to see how this works if we look at an example. In our events process, we mapped out a series of stages that we might undertake for an event marketing phase:
1. Gather copy
2. Develop materials
3. Upload to the website
4. Print hard copies
5. Post to social media
Gather your group, ask yourselves the questions and start to consider where there are wastes that you could remove. So, for gathering the copy, do you send out emails to prospective contributors and wait to see what you get back? How could you speed up that process and remove the 'time' waste? When you have gathered the materials, how do you check the quality? Do materials have to be reviewed by a range of different people before sign off? Is all this checking needed, or could you get to the quality you need with a more streamlined approach? Who uploads the information to the website, arranges for printing and manages the social media activity? Is this making the best use of their time and talent? Are you using technology as effectively as you could? Be forensic in your examination of your processes, and don't be afraid to get rid of the things that aren't adding anything to the outcomes.
Being honest about what you need, and brave about changing things - or stopping things that aren't adding value - is the only way to get your processes really working. Even if you're not sure, it's a good idea to test what will happen - a stage we'll get to soon. For now, though, working with your group to make those decisions is fantastic progress. Come back soon to find out what comes next! And you know you can always get in touch if you need any further help or support.