Value of Processes

Tue, Dec 9, 2008

Process in Business

Everyday, employees work on tasks that affect other people within the company. Sometimes, they do them in auto-pilot mode and don’t look at how to improve what they are doing, how it affects others, and how their tasks fit into the big picture – the process.

A process is a set of tasks that need to be accomplished to turn out a product for an internal or external customer.

Creating Processes: A Primer

As part of our work with a construction company, we identified a process that needed improvement. Identifying the process was easy – we looked for signs of pain and found one process that was often completed much later than projected. The process selected was for the construction close-out process because they had been having many problems effectively closing out a job. When jobs are not completed, revenue is delayed, clients are unhappy, vendors go unpaid, and critical documentation can’t get delivered.

After interviewing people involved in the process, it was apparent that:

* Everyone had different answers about what closing out a job meant. Many sub-processes were identified but never the full process.
* There was disagreement on who should be doing certain tasks.
* There was disagreement on when certain tasks should/could start.
* Bottlenecks existed because too many tasks were given to one person.

Once all the initial interviews were collected, a flow chart was created with the following things:

* Inputs
* Outputs
* Tasks
* Task Owners

After the initial flow chart was done, we looked to the head of construction for feedback as he was responsible for it. This serves two valuable purposes:

* Focused feedback. It’s not very time-efficient to gather everyone or even have separate interviews to go over the initial draft of the flow chart. Speaking to the expert will help minimize everyone’s time. Plus, everyone will thank you for not involving them in such a dry, boring procedure.
* Documenting all expertise on the subject will help the company gain knowledge as a whole. If this person left, the knowledge still exists within the company.

After the second draft was completed, it was distributed to everyone involved in the process. Feedback and/or concerns were brought to the process owner.

Some processes require multiple iterations. During these iterations, you should always be looking on ways to improve the process. Some tasks have little value and can be deleted completely. Others may be added. During this study, we had gathered some external resources to see how other businesses closed out jobs. If it made sense, we incorporated those ideas.

After the flow chart was completed, it was distributed in a group meeting. It was explained that this was the process of how a successful close-out works and that roles and responsibilities were now clear. People would be held accountable for their tasks. Commitment from the head of construction was critical.

There are many benefits to evaluating and documenting processes:

* Creates a better end-product for the customer in a quicker timeframe.
* Improves efficiency and effectiveness within the company.
* Helps clarify roles and responsibilities.
* Distributes knowledge across the company.
* Helps identify how individual tasks fit into the big picture.

Analyzing a process is never done. Employees should always be looking to improve the process.

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