Business improvement techniques are activities that organizations like yours are consciously employing to enhance their business processes. It’s no silver bullet though. You need to plan, measure and communicate the changes you’re trying to make.
It aims to achieve its goal and objectives by improving the business processes of the whole company. By enhancing the efficiency of its functions and processes you are thereby reducing the cost of doing business. Process improvement tools may be used but the real focus is on data and communicating where gains in efficiency are being made.
Basic business process improvement techniques
It involves reducing if not eliminating wastes and variances in processes in your firm by optimizing results through efficiently performing functions. The process may be gradual, making your company sustainable over time by testing the effectiveness of the improvements you introduce.
It is basically concerned with continuously making efforts to find ways to do better today and tomorrow what you did yesterday though a consistent criteria of measurement.
Don’t forget the human side of this equation either. You should work with your human resources department for establishing a performance improvement plan for all team members and roles.
Where continuous improvement all started
Business process improvement as a practice started to be documented within IBM starting in the early 1980’s. It is credited for improving quality by over 60% and reducing cost by 90%. Its focus was on support services and not on the usual production processes.
It was therefore applicable to any ongoing concern, for-profit or non-profit companies and government agencies. This should be the real interest to you since improvement techniques can be employed in any industry. Also, the change management process approaches can in themselves be used at a personal or organizational level.
Communication & data are the key
Business improvement techniques involve giving clear messages and communicating it effectively within the whole organization.
- What is the company’s mission, vision, short and long-term goals and how does the company plan to achieve it?
- Have high but reasonable standards been set?
Not measuring the results against it, not following through in taking action for variances and substandard results, and not being serious about achieving the goals will give everyone the wrong message.
Business process improvement means involving your staff who are directly involved in the processes. They may not have the power to change the process but are the ones who know the bottlenecks. They definitely have something to suggest improving and simplifying the process. Giving them credit for the ideas that help make their job faster and better will encourage willing participants.
The use of corporate performance management software can help formalize the process especially in bigger companies. At the very least, some of your key human resource personnel will need to have adequate training.
As regards solutions, you, your team supervisors and human resources personnel need to looking at a variety of employee motivation incentives, rewards & ideas including team bonding sessions, training, pay related bonuses, etc. No one single solution will fit every company and you should not resort to one type of benefit type.
Costs & pitfalls of business improvement techniques
For this to work, management must be willing to incur the cost of staff involvement.
Business performance improvement is not possible without performance measurements and indicators which your own staff will quite often understand best. These will show if the standards are being met, if the performance is good or bad. Beyond that, there should be measures that will assist you in doing the job even better.
Examples of these are what is the number of leads for new businesses that are being pursued? What is the cost to generate leads by route/segment and similar measurements? Continuous improvement programs may need measurements that track error, wastage, rework and down time in each process and function.
You should ensure that only data that calls for attention and action from those involved in the processes are gathered.
A major pitfall, certainly to your employees, is the danger of individuals being perceived as redundant to the overall operations and processes in the business. Once you collate all this data, to identify areas for improvement, it may actually turn into a strategic HR management process defining company objectives whereby you identify key teams who need additional resources as well as redundant roles & under-performing employees.
One way to mitigate around this pitfall is to make sure employees are made aware of some of the strategic ideas you have for improving the business. For example, if some roles are redundant then you should already be thinking about what training or new positions certain individuals could do in order to focus your workers in on those capabilities that bring in the most benefits and profits.
For business improvement techniques to work, process owners must be clearly identified and established. The factors that determine the success or failure of the program for your employees must be clearly defined and communicated.
Business improvement techniques training must be provided for those who will be directly involved in the program. As a start, the program may be initiated in a manageable (isolated) area and process. Set clear time lines for how long the process should be evaluated.
As the program progresses and gains momentum, it may be extended to other areas of the company. Your management involvement and commitment must be visible from the start or the initiative will fail.