Updated: Aug 24, 2019
If you want to be bleak, and actually quite dark, you can suggest that life is essentially a set of processes. Everything we do, everything we think and everything we feel comes from processes and experiences.
Evolutionary theory suggests that most of these living processes develop to become efficient and safe. Our fight and flight responses for example. This is not to say evolution does not make mistakes - see the Recurrent Laryngeal nerve for example.
But what about less inherent activities. What about modern-day activities? What about the manufacturing process for a car, what about the process for creating personalised products from order to delivery, what about making breakfast in the morning? We are built, and taught, to want to make these processes as efficient as possible but achieving this is not easy. We do not instinctively know the most efficient processes, and we have to actively figure these out ourselves. A bit like doing a Rubik’s cube.
In business this is no different, organisations who use inefficient processes tend not to last long – often through frustrating their clients, not being price competitive and/or through staff becoming disillusioned with the organisation and its purpose.
Of course, organisations do not choose to be inefficient, and often these inefficiencies are only noticed when crisis or difficulties arise. Most of the time we do not actually see an inefficient process when we are living it and programmed to accept it. I have worked with several clients with filing systems which make perfect sense to one or two individuals, but for others in their organisation it appears messy and ineligible, and thus nearly unusable.
I suspect we have all experienced incredible frustration as clients/customers of an organisation due to their processing of us. The number of times I have become incensed in queues at the Post Office for example, there is no word in the English language that can convey the deep-rooted hatred one feels in those moments. It is only necessity that holds us back from leaving and looking at alternatives.
Process management is not a new concept per se, although attitudes to mapping efficiencies and design are contemporary in nature. Japanese manufacturing boomed through the successful implementation of process management and Kaizen. The famous story from the 90s, of the Ford Motor Company being overjoyed with their announcement of being able to produce and deliver a car to a customer within 25 days of order being somewhat dampened after finding Toyota could do it in 6 days, illustrating just what strategic competitive advantages are to be had from efficient design.
Of course, when talking about Process Management, most assume that it is a manufacturing thing. However, this is not true, although obviously the processes in manufacturing are more visible. Processes include everything from filing systems, administrative functions, responding to customers, layouts of stores and working day structure to name but a few.
Business Process Mapping is a consultative process which identifies what the core processes are in an organisation, where the inefficiencies are in the key processes, and then remapping processes with new KPI’s to ensure efficient and effective performance. This process is always more effective with external support given the unbiased and unpolitical viewpoint of the mapper. As Charles Handy said, organisational culture is ‘Just the way we do things here’, and this is often the biggest inhibitor of change and progress.
Businesses are obviously complex entities, and the processes become more numerous with this increasing complexity. Often most processes are already quite effective, and sometimes it might be that only one part of a single process is failing an organisation – that part might be something that the organisation has never even thought to consider, even something they consider a strength.
Perhaps the most illuminating and fruitful part of a thorough Business Process Mapping exercise is to see the core processes and functions of the organisation illustrated diagrammatically, in both process and time-based format. This gives a great insight into the activities of the business for those that may well have been living those processes for years. It can even be an emotional process for business owners, to see what parts of their organisation do on a day to day basis.
An important part of BPM is the reflection stage, taking time after implementing and sustaining new processes to re-examine the process and to ensure that desired performance and achievement was achieved from the remapping. Most often it is wise at this stage to recognise the progress and gains that have been made from the remapping exercise, and to further solidify the successes by ensuring that previous processes are not allowed to return.
What processes has your organisation had issues with, and have you overcome them through considering remapping?
If you think your business could benefit from Business Process Mapping, see how Alacrity Consulting can help you and book in a free consultation today.