When it comes to managing your business, you’re always striving for maximum efficiency. It’s a given that you want to get most out of it, in terms of productivity, profits, and so on.
Is your business as efficient as it could be, though? More often than not, unless you practice continuous improvement, the answer is no. To really get the most out of your business, you need to achieve process excellence – and in this guide, we’re going to explain how, exactly, you can do that.
What is Process Excellence?
Achieving process excellence means that the processes your business undertakes are executed effectively and efficiently. That implies cutting down on waste and getting results that exhibit minimal variation.
Variation in results is, to a certain extent, inevitable, but that variation must fall within acceptable parameters. Whether a process serves internal or external clients, variation will affect the quality and result in client dissatisfaction.
Think about it from a customer perspective. You buy apple pie at a certain bakery, and it’s fantastic! Next time you buy one, however, you find that they’ve changed the recipe. You are understandably disappointed because you expected a certain quality of apple pie and you’re not getting it. Will you go back for more? Will you recommend it to your friends? Probably not.
What does the bakery need to do? It needs to stick to the process that delivered good results. The same goes for your business. If you can achieve the right “recipe” for performing a business process, you should follow the same methodology every time you repeat the process.
Achieving Process Excellence: Lean, Kaizen or BPM
There are 3 important business philosophies we can turn to for help when striving for business process excellence. Since each addresses excellence using a specific approach, it might even be a good idea to combine all three.
Here’s a brief introduction to each of them, and a few practical tips you can put to work for you.
Getting Lean and mean is a proven approach to business process excellence. To get Lean, you get mean on the “seven wastes” identified by Toyota when it embarked on a process of doing things better. Lean means a focus on minimizing:
- Transport (from one place to another)
- Inventory (because inventory ties up capital and incurs risk)
- Motion (movements workers must make to perform a task)
- Waiting (to get on with the process)
- Overproduction (that costs money that could be used more productively elsewhere)
- Over-processing (where the extra work done doesn’t matter to the customer)
- Defects (bin it, or rework it – either way, it’s a waste)
Eliminating waste means that you save money on the processes your business undertakes. You can decide whether you pass the saving on to your clients or whether you bank it and improve your profits.
In short, Lean means doing away with everything that is not necessary to the process or that impedes and delays it. To make your business Lean, you’ll need commitment from every person in the organization – not just top management or a group of employees.
The benefits of Lean include:
- Improved productivity
- Fewer defects
- Better product or service quality (leading to a stronger brand, satisfied clients)
Lean can apply to almost any kind of industry, even a service industry, and it is a widely accepted approach to the achievement of business process excellence.
Kaizen: Getting Better All the Time
Kaizen means “improvement.” Toyota wasn’t satisfied with one drive towards process excellence. Instead, it wanted to keep on getting better all the time.
The secret to successful Kaizen is involving everyone. Your aim is to help everyone to do a better job, to work more efficiently, and to become a part of any process improvement initiative. The whole idea is not to make everyone work harder, but to make work smarter, easier to do, and of a better overall quality.
So you’re probably wondering – how, exactly, do you “do” Kaizen? Well, it’s not something that you do. It’s more a management methodology than anything else. Successfully implementing Kaizen means that your company values initiative from employees, who in turn, contribute a lot to any process improvement efforts.
Although Toyota applies Kaizen in a production environment, it can apply to just about everything. Even life-coaches use the Kaizen approach to help their clients to do things better.
The take-home message of the Kaizen approach is that if we want process excellence, we must make excellence a standard rather than a goal. Whenever we diverge from that standard, we need to stop, think, address causes rather than symptoms, and immediately integrate what we’ve learned into our routine way of working.
To learn more about Kaizen, check out our comprehensive guide.
Business Process Management: Constant Process Evaluation & Improvement
Business Process Management (BPM) views businesses as entities whose activities consist of a set of processes. Since you have a defined set of activities, you can also define how the processes they entail should work. You can even plan for contingencies, and you can repeat your processes and get results that meet a certain standard of process excellence.
You can relate BPM to both Kaizen and Lean. Your processes should continually improve, and they should strive to eliminate waste. As soon as you identify a waste you must eliminate, you can quickly entrench the necessary change by altering the business process. As soon as you spot an area for improvement, you act.
BPM is a bit too big of a topic to cover in this article. If you’re like to learn more, check out our article on the ins-and-outs of business process management.
Enforcing Process Improvement with Workflow Software
Once you’ve figured out how to improve processes, and hence, achieve process excellence, you need to actually implement it.
If you’ve ever tried to change anything in an organization, though, you’ve probably noticed that it’s not that easy. While the improvements make sense for the good of the organization, your employees aren’t too keen on changes.
They’ve been carrying out the process the same way for months, if not years. No one wants to re-learn something they’re already good at.
So, how do you overcome inertia and resistance to change? Technology provides the answer.
Workflow management software, such as Tallyfy, helps you digitize your processes. Whenever you have to make changes to your processes, you do it through the software, and it handles the enforcement for you.
As an added benefit, it the system also helps facilitate the process. It assigns tasks and deadlines for your employees automatically, making the whole process much smoother.