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7 Steps to Process Excellence

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Written by Guest Blogger, Ian Hawkins, Editor at PEX Network.

If you think your PEX lacks pep, here are 7 steps to achieving Process Excellence.

1. Put your customer at the heart of it

The Lean principle is to put your resources into what adds value to the customer and do your best to stop doing anything that doesn’t.

From this fundamental idea, books, business plans, and training programs have been built around the idea of figuring out what’s useful to a business and what isn’t.

There are many important concepts in Lean – here are 12 of them.

It helps to have a good dialogue with customers to find out what they like about what you’re doing, and focus on addressing pain points without affecting the things that customers love.

2. Know what you’re doing

You need to have a deep understanding of what happens within your business, from issues along your supply chain, to how your invoices get paid. If you eliminate waste from the system, you buy yourself greater efficiency.

For example – imagine you audit your processes and find that you’re getting two teams to do the same task. One team completes the task in half as much time as the other. Find out why, and give all the tasks to the faster team. Result: time saved.

This ‘process mining’ can help you find efficiencies across the organization that may impact the roles people take on, the technology deployed, and even the structure of the organization itself. Process mining can help you do what you’re already doing better, pass on best practice within the organization, and reveal opportunities for further change.

3. Change what you’re doing

If you want demonstrable Process Excellence, you’re going to have to change. If you’re not prepared to change, you’re not prepared to change for the better.

Change is easy to talk about, and hard to do. The received wisdom around change is:

  • know what you want to achieve,
  • know what the journey looks like,
  • break the journey into small manageable chunks,
  • monitor progress at every stage so that you can be sure of where you are slowing down, or going backward, and
  • be persistent and consistent!

4. Lead your people

People aren’t machines, and won’t do what you tell them to do just because. You need to understand what motivates people and use that information to drive the behavior you want to see.

It can help to know what motivates individuals within your team: some people will be entirely motivated by money, others may want more time off. Research shows that one of the most effective ways of engaging employees is to involve them in the decision-making processes of the business.

Peter Drucker is the grandfather of modern management theory, and a lot of his lessons from leadership boil down to being a person of integrity. It’s redundant to give a list of characteristics of a leader – because every leader does things their own way. What people really want from a leader is the sense that they have a vision, and know where they will and will not compromise.

5. Get someone (or something) else to do it

Two of the big themes in recent years have been outsourcing and Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Both ideas involve sending expensive processes elsewhere to be done at a better cost.

RPA is an exciting technology that is able to perform the repetitive, predictable tasks that humans find boring. Robots can be fast, tireless, and accurate in the right roles. 

There is some controversy over whether RPA will overtake outsourcing. At the time of writing, they both have a part to play in organizations that want to find efficiencies.

6. Keep on top of the tech

Things are changing all the time – artificial intelligence is partnering up with bots and making them more and more powerful; there’s a technology solution to many previously intractable business problems, and they are getting more accessible and affordable every day.

Plenty of technology that is part of everyday working life has at one point been the ‘big new thing’. Being aware of the latest developments will help you to understand what new ideas are worth adopting – and which might be an expensive flash in the pan.

7. Be prepared to fail

Sir Ken Robinson said, ‘If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.’

Innovation and failure go hand in hand – the trick is not to avoid failure, but to avoid failure from doing you lasting damage. Failure is an opportunity to test processes to their limit – and then to work at full capacity.

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