Improve EFFICIENCY of Business Process to Gain More Time

The objectives of business process improvement are to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and adaptability of a company’s business processes. You know effectiveness relates to delivering what your customer or client cares about, but what about efficiency? How can you save time and resources?

Efficiency affects the employees responsible for the overall process, the workers in a department or departments, and how easily they can use the business process. When you reduce the amount of time it requires to accomplish a task, whether by eliminating bureaucracy or improving cycle time, you are on your way to freeing up time and realigning your resources to work on more value-added work.

To eliminate bureaucracy, consider using the SALT filter, which stands for:

  • Statutory – denotes that the activity supports legislation or a government statute, such as imposing statutes of limitations, whether enacted by a national or state legislative governing body.
  • Audit – means examining records or transactions to check for accuracy or compliance with pre-established guidelines or rules.
  • Legal – signifies that the activity supports a law, like the labor laws that control minimum wage levels and overtime pay.
  • Tax – denotes a financial charge or fee paid to a government body, like a sales tax, income tax, or value-added tax.

If an activity supports SALT, it probably should remain, except perhaps for audits because we often audit too frequently. Validate the reason for an audit to determine whether it should continue.

To improve cycle time, complete a cycle time analysis by examining the activities involved in a business process, identifying where delays occur, the cause for the delays, and possible resolutions. Improving cycle time not always frees up your resources, but helps deliver what the customer cares about too.

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Is the Veteran’s Administration Capable of Performing Process Improvement?

A friend recently visited the local Veteran’s Administration (VA) clinic and, as usual, shared his frustration with me after his appointment. It wasn’t his frustration with the doctor he finally saw; it was with the burdensome administrative processes in place. President Trump appointed David J. Shulkin as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and he received confirmation on February 13, 2017, but improvements do not seem forthcoming. Okay, only four months have passed since his appointment, but he previously had responsibility for the veteran’s health care system for almost two years under President Obama. Mr. Shulkin should have started asking the right questions by now.

Shulkin could have started a process improvement effort by identifying and prioritizing the VA’s internal administrative processes, by clarifying the identity of the customer and what they want from the process so the VA can deliver an effective business process, and by talking to employees who work in the process day to day so the VA can deliver an efficient business process.

Does the VA leadership even know which business process is in the worst shape? The process prioritization table (the key outcome of step 1 of 10 steps to business process improvement) would answer that question.

Does the entire VA organization recognize the veteran as the customer (step 6 of the 10 steps)? Does every employee treat the veteran as a guest? Does the VA know what is considered value added? Do they know what has to change to deliver effectiveness?

Does the VA understand how to make the business processes more efficient (again, step 6 of the 10 steps)? Have they talked to the right people – not just leaders, but the employees who work in the process on a day-to-day basis? No one has ever asked the doctor my friend saw what the doctor thought could be improved, yet he works there and has many ideas.

I doubt anyone would disagree the VA is an immense bureaucracy, but that should not stop Shulkin and his leadership team from taking on a business process improvement effort. Don’t you agree that our veterans are worth it?

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BPI Tops the List…Again

19th Annual Sierra-Cedar HR System Survey still places Business Process Improvement at top of list. Visit: http://www.susanpagebooks.com

2016-2017 Sierra-Cedar Survey

 

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Oh Wow, Change! Can’t Wait!

Today it seems as if everyone wants to improve business processes, right? Who doesn’t want to make their company’s business processes more effective and efficient? You want to deliver what customers want. You want to do so in the most efficient way. You want to be on the leading edge of the revolution. Or do you?

Most people today say they accept the notion that change is the norm and they embrace it. Of course, that is what companies expect their employees to say. After all, business consultants said over 10 years ago the only constant is change. But, how far have we really come as human beings to accepting this concept? Change is good as long as it does not negatively affect me, is probably the honest answer. How many of you can honestly say you hunger for change? Real change. Change that affects you personally? Even positive change disrupts your day-to-day life. While the theory sounds good, it is the reality that challenges our private world.

Change is inherent in business process improvement (BPI), so when you lead a BPI effort, prepare yourself for the natural angst you will observe from some employees in your organization. The brave employees will express their concern openly and others will not. Accept the “gift” of pushback and unwrap the gift to discover what’s inside. Your role is to show sensitivity and not take pushback personally; and to recognize human behavior, knowing some employees place much of their personal value on their job. Still make the changes that will improve the business of course, but plan for the reactions you will experience and know they are normal. Listen to employees and talk to them about how the changes will help the company remain competitive, which helps them retain a job in the end.

What do you think?

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Eliminate your Non-value Added Work

Step 6 of the 10 steps to business process improvement involves applying a series of improvement techniques to a company’s existing business processes. One of the techniques, value added, requires you to examine the steps included in a business process and eliminate any step that does not add value to the customer. The key question to ask is, “would the customer willingly pay for a step if they knew it existed?”

Think about how you can apply this same concept to your own job on a day-to-day basis:

  • Do you do work you believe is not critical?
  • Do you have a list of priorities, some of which you never get to…week after week?
  • Do you wish you had more time to work on tasks you believe are more important?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you should wonder if what you do every day adds value and makes a difference to your company.

Start each week by spending 15 minutes examining what is ahead of you for the week and make a list of three things you can eliminate. It may be a meeting, phone call, report, or a project. At the beginning, it may seem impossible – after all, it’s part of your job, but eventually you might be surprised.

What about your boss you may ask.

  • If you can assume responsibility for something that contributes real value add, you will make your boss happy. Managers always seem to have more work than employees.
  • Have a discussion with your boss about priorities. Is “A,” “B,” or “C” more important? You will quickly learn about true value if “A” always seems to fall to the bottom of the list.
  • How can you restructure your job to better align with your company’s goals? Understand what your company wants to achieve and articulate how you can help.

There is no better feeling than when you do something that you can see makes a difference.

Please share an example of something you eliminated here on this blog.

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Is There a Role for Reorganizations in Business Process Improvement?

Everyone has seen reorganizations happen and you most likely have experienced one yourself. How does it feel? Your answer probably depends on how well you fared.

One aspect of BPM (business process management) is taking a process or enterprise-wide view of the business instead of a functional view. Although you may find it effective to reorganize this way, many companies find it difficult because functions have expertise. For example, human resources has training, compensation, and performance management expertise; information technology has system implementation, debugging, and software development expertise; and finance has accounting, budgeting, and risk management expertise. So, how do you incorporate a function’s expertise into a process view?

Think of the “customer engagement” process from an enterprise perspective. Let’s use the same three examples to think about how this could work:

  • Human resources: are employees measured and rewarded on his or her contribution to customer satisfaction?
  • Information technology: does the technical department build tools to help satisfy customers, like a customer management system so employees know everything they should know about a customer to deliver personalized service?
  • Finance: does the company have a customer friendly accounts receivable process?

Companies can have an enterprise view and still take advantage of functional expertise. It is hard though, do not kid yourself. And, it requires support from the top.

Do you know any companies who have done this successfully?

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What is Your North Star in Business Process Improvement?


Before you begin improving a business process, spend some time on step 2 of the 10 steps to business process improvement because this step helps to guide your work. While the North Star is not necessarily the brightest star in the sky, you can rely on it as a true gauge of “north” and travelers have historically used it to guide them for centuries. What will guide you in your process improvement effort?


In step 2, you identified your customer (or client) and what they want from the business process. You also defined how to measure the success of your business process. These measurements of success should support the customer needs you identified and you can use this information as your North Star. While you might also define metrics that support stakeholder needs or internal business efficiency, make certain to keep the customer need(s) as your North Star. Directionally, you cannot go wrong.


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