For many companies, process improvement is like that multivitamin you’re supposed to take every day, but keep forgetting – even when it’s sitting in front of you.
A lot of growing companies are often so caught up in growth that they fail to make the time to evaluate the processes they put in place as the startup left the runway.
When both customers and employees are actively engaged, organizations experience a 240 percent rise in performance-related business outcomes, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workforce report.Chris Cancialosi
The first thing we should consider is the importance of people actually doing the work helping you understand how to improve a process – covered in the video below.
And that continues in an ugly cycle which can create a lot of problems as companies mature. 90% of startups wind up failing, and there’s likely a fair share that went under due to mangled processes that crippled operations, decimated customer service, and sent customers walking.
One of the largest issues is when leadership is disconnected from those processes and they’re left in employee’s hands. Your employees may not want to raise concern over bottlenecking processes – even if those processes are painfully obvious and creating production issues that impact the bottom line.
Process Improvement is Needed Everywhere
Every startup has multiple systems and processes in play, and at some point, those processes are going to need an audit and an update.
The most appropriate measure is to implement a program of continuous process improvement, whereby you’re constantly evaluating and tweaking processes to ensure they’re running at peak efficiency.
Unfortunately, that’s difficult to do when you have a business to manage. At least, if you’re trying to manage those audits on your own.
For effective and efficient continuous process improvement, you should crowdsource ideas and process maintenance from the people you trust to help you run your business.
Here are ways to leverage your team to keep operations running smoothly:
Let The Team Sample the Tools
Some businesses processes can be fixed relatively easily. Others may require a complete overhaul that involves new software or the use of applications and approval workflows to ensure that bottlenecking doesn’t occur in the future.
More complex processes that stretch across more than one department can be the most challenging, especially when tools and software are involved.
Rather than implementing software, you think is appropriate, crowdsource opinions from your team. This is critical if more than one department is involved, as departments may use software and tools differently.
Let them sample the software you intend to use and trial it, if possible. Give employees ample time to demo how they would use software to determine if it’s a good for them – as individuals and as a team. It won’t do you any good to revise an entire process, and onboard new software, if it winds up being too frustrating to use and causes friction among departments.
Create Case Studies of Process Wins
You may encounter friction with some employees when it comes time to audit and change your processes. If this is the case, even with just a few employees, then make sure they understand that their position and opinion is valued.
Some employees are just uncomfortable with change, and they’re afraid that change or a new process will make their job more difficult.
If you’re implementing processes improvement in different departments and you’ve already had success elsewhere, then draw from that department and crowdsource support. Turn them into a case study for success as well as cheerleaders who can let your other teams know how well the improved processes are working.
Bring the data if you have it; have those successful teams provide raw data on how the improvements have impacted their workflow, their performance, and helped them meet team goals.
According to Nielsen, over 90% of consumers trust peer reviews over brand advertising. In this scenario, you’re the brand. Let those crowdsourced peer reviews from coworkers help you sell it to the rest of the team.
Don’t Focus on What’s Broken
When you’re in the market to start streamlining processes and bring about change in operations, don’t just focus on what’s broken. Turn to your teams and crowdsource ideas for how they feel operations can improve.
This shouldn’t be limited to just the processes they feel are bottlenecked or ineffective right now. Ask them to share any ideas they’ve had for new processes that can improve the way you do business, from order fulfillment to something as simple as how documents might pass between department heads.
Create a Suggestion Hub for Process Improvement
One of the best ways to crowdsource business process improvement from employees is to make it easy for them to share ideas. Even if you have an open door policy, don’t force employees into situations where personal engagement is required.
You may have the best of relationships with your team, but it can still be difficult for an employee to approach leadership with a suggestion or to bring up something they think isn’t effective.
To get around this, create a suggestion hub. There are several ways to deploy this, including:
- Create a Slack channel where employees can jump in and drop suggestions
- Set up a tried and true suggestion box for your team
- Create an email address devoted to receiving suggestions
- Create a private group on a social channel like Facebook or LinkedIn, or within your internal Intranet (like Salesforces Chatter)
Put Employees in Charge of Process Improvement
A highly effective way to crowdsource process improvement is to put your teams in charge of audits and suggesting improvements. Since your employees are in the trenches, dealing first-hand with the problems and bottlenecks, they’re most likely to know what areas of the process need the most urgent attention.
They’ve also had plenty of time to consider solutions that would make their job easier if they had the ability to change a process.
Delegate the authority to your teams, along with the accountability, and designate roles as to who is in charge of specific processes as well as reporting on audits and change deployment.
This reduces the time you need to be actively involved in audits and process improvement, and you can base your future involvement on the reports you receive from your teams.
Create a Reward System for Change
Even with all of the above in place, you may still have a hard time crowdsourcing process improvement from your teams. When all else would fail, never discount the effectiveness of rewarding those who do well.
Consider the impact of effective process improvement on your bottom line.
For example: if one of your customer service team members identifies a problem and suggests a viable solution that can reduce the time it takes to close cases or eliminate a specific type of complaint completely, that could have a significant impact on customer delight.
As a result, the lifetime value of your customer goes up and churn could be reduced. That’s a positive change to your bottom line. Employees know that’s the kind of result that comes from process improvement, and expectation of a reward or recognition is common.
Acknowledge their hard work and contribution with a reward, because that’s exactly what your employees are after. In fact, one Psychometrics survey on employee engagement revealed that when asked what leaders could do to improve engagement, 58% of respondents said: “give recognition.”
Another survey on employee recognition from SHRM/Globoforce found companies that spend greater than 1% of payroll on recognition are 79% more likely to see positive financial results.
Give the Process Time
If you run into kinks while working on process improvement, be patient. Don’t blame the tools, and don’t create a negative atmosphere by questioning team performance. The best approach is to make sure your team is documenting everything from start to finish with process improvement.
This way, if there are issues with implementation, you can look back and identify where deployment and execution may have gone wrong, or if there was some other underlying cause. Continue to crowdsource feedback from your team. Find out where they think the process went sideways and what the next step or solution might be. Identify the change requirements and keep moving forward.