Increasingly, companies are recognizing that by creating and maintaining a culture of continuous process improvement, they can fuel efficiency, engagement and innovation in the workplace. Just as importantly, a process improvement culture can set the stage for greater profitability and corporate growth.
If making continuous process improvement an integral part of your corporate DNA holds the potential to benefit your staff, your customers and your company’s bottom line, why is it sometimes difficult to generate buy-in from the exec team and employees, and to sustain process management efforts over the long haul?
Let’s start with the C-Suite. To build a compelling case for business process improvement, the exec team needs to understand how it will help them to achieve their business goals. Linking process improvement to the company’s business strategy and demonstrating how each of the processes that will be targeted for improvement will ultimately add value to the organization, will go a long way toward attracting the interest and support of senior leadership team.
Employing a structure that shows how process improvement connects the company’s technology, services and strategy with regard to the customer can also be effective in garnering support from the top. It’s also essential to identify and understand the critical issues and process problems the company is currently facing in order to address them in the process improvement plan.
To identify these issues, you’ll need to get input from employees at all levels within the business. Doing so will serve to pinpoint not only what is keeping staff up at night, but also where disconnects exist between those doing the day-to-day work and the executive team. It is also important to get feedback from customers – what issues are impacting them, and do they have specific complaints or problems?
To ensure that teams throughout the company are motivated to participate and make the process improvement initiatives work, you’ll need to secure buy-in across the business. Consider taking these steps to make that happen:
1. Identify process champions in each department or business team. These champions are typically creative doers who are most likely to challenge the status quo as well as identify alternative (and hopefully better) ways of doing things. Getting their buy-in will help immeasurably in communicating how process improvement can make things better for both staff and customers.
2. Use short, sharp messages that provide examples of exactly how process improvement will make things better. Stay away from messaging that focuses simply on enhancements like reducing costs or improving customer experience. They tend to be overused and not specific enough to grab attention. Because process improvement is about incremental transformation, messaging should be specific, honest and realistic. It also needs to be maintained over an extended period of time.
3. Look for a few quick wins so that both senior leadership and employees immediately see the benefits of the process improvement effort. Identify processes with high levels of inefficiency that are negatively impacting customer experience or are in high-risk areas. It is important for these wins to provide tangible benefits that are quantifiable. Company leadership and teams across the business will want to see more than the promise of happier customers for them to buy in.
4. Process improvement efforts must deliver and demonstrate value on an ongoing basis to maintain continued buy-in from both leadership and staff. Implement regular reviews in order to track and report on the progress being made. These reviews will also serve to identify new areas of opportunity, while maintaining the momentum already being generated. Perhaps most importantly, reviews will provide an opportunity to celebrate the successes achieved to date and the progress being made. Both are critical to maintaining process improvement momentum.
To be successful, business process improvement should become an integrated part of day-to-day operational processes and reviews. Rather than being viewed as an administrative add-on, it needs to become a normal part of a company’s project methodology.
Get process improvement off on the right foot and ensure it is successful, build a solid case and garner both buy-in and involvement from individuals at all levels within the company. While the hardest part may be getting started, maintaining a process improvement culture will become easier once there are a few wins that demonstrate the benefits to customers, staff, and executives.