There just has to be a better way to do some things, right? Frustration, time delays, and missed deadlines due to bogged-down process workflows can strangle even the best businesses. This doesn’t have to be the status quo. There is a path through the workflow quagmire.
Process efficiency is crucial to any business. Every company has dozens, if not hundreds, of processes. These processes form the infrastructure of an organization.
Organizations are a vast network of information superhighways and resource pipelines that intersect and depend on each other. When operations are efficient, information and resources flow smoothly throughout the system.
But poor processes are like damaged roads. They slow things down and trigger bottlenecks across the whole business. They impair efficiency and hamper a company’s potential.
Also, like damaged roads, poor processes require attention to improve how well things function.
If you think your processes could use some work, RTG Solutions Group has you covered. In this article, we share 5 strategies to improve process efficiency in your organization.
These 5 pro-tips will improve work processes and efficiency at your organization in no time:
- Map out the current state
- Establish efficiency metrics
- Document new processes
- Schedule training
- Create a continuous improvement team
Before we get into our tips, let’s cover a couple of FAQs on operational efficiency.
What is Process Efficiency?
Process efficiency is the amount of effort and resources needed to create a product or complete a task. Because every business is different, efficiency is measured and understood differently by every organization.
Let’s consider a simplified example. An ice cream shop has dozens of business processes, each with a unique measure of efficiency.
How many customers can be served at once? How well do you plan to have enough ice cream for busy days? How long does it take to serve a customer? How well do you hire and train new staff? These are all questions about efficiency.
Why Should We Improve Our Work Process Efficiency?
At RTG Solutions Group, we believe every business should be engaged in a process of continuous improvement. We’ve learned that, in a competitive marketplace, innovation and strategic change drive growth.
What’s this about continuous improvement? Maybe you’ve been doing things a certain way in your business for awhile now. And that’s the way you’ve always done it. So why would we tinker with it?
Well, let’s go back to the definition of process efficiency. It’s the amount of effort and/or resources needed to create a product or complete a task.
So if your process efficiency is increased, then the amount of effort and resources required to achieve an outcome goes down.
This means that your business is doing more with less. And when you do more with less, costs go down and profits go up.
After covering the “what” and “why” of process efficiency, let’s jump right into our top 5 tips to improve work processes and efficiency:
1. MAP OUT THE CURRENT STATE
You can’t get from Point A to Point B if you don’t even know where Point A is. That’s why it’s crucial to map out your current processes before you craft an improvement plan.
To map out your current state, you need to document all the steps in a particular task or process from beginning to end. It’s critical to capture even the smartest details.
Of course, there’s a right and wrong way to do this. You can’t just open up the employee handbook, regurgitate official procedures onto a new page, and call that a current-state map. It’s also quite possible that procedures have never been documented, or haven’t been updated for some time.
Instead, discuss with your team how the process is actually carried out. Cross-reference this information with the most current standard operating procedures (SOPs). As a group, identify critical knowledge gaps and bottlenecks.
But don’t jump ahead and propose changes at this stage! You are only interested in the present-state procedural infrastructure.
You might be wondering, why do I need to record every step of a process that’s about to be scrapped?
Though it might seem like overkill, this is perhaps the most important part of process improvement. It not only helps you diagnose the problem, it engages your employees in a growth-centered conversation.
A current state process map is the first step in cultivating innovative yet attainable productivity solutions.
2. ESTABLISH EFFICIENCY METRICS
Before you draft a new SOP, create a plan to measure efficiency gains. To maximize your process improvement investment, you need to assess its effectiveness.
Here’s how to measure process efficiency. First and foremost, identify your desired outcome. Discuss with your team members what it is you want to improve about the current process. That is, figure out where you want to see efficiency gains.
Do you want to reduce customer wait times? Speed up product distribution? Reduce accounting errors? Increase quarterly sales?
Once you figure out your desired outcome, determine the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that corresponds to it. Your KPI should be specific, measurable, and relevant to the task at hand.
As an example, suppose a business struggles with its hourly employee time-keeping system. At the end of every pay period, HR may have to correct dozens of employee timesheets due to errors.
Some employees forget to clock out for lunch, others forget to clock out at the end of the day, others clock in too early, etc.
A desired outcome here might be to improve overall timesheet accuracy. Therefore, in this case, the number of HR corrections per pay period would be an appropriate KPI.
If the number of HR timesheet corrections goes down after the new process is enacted, we’ll know the process was effective. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for how to measure efficiency. This will depend on your company and its goals.
3. DOCUMENT NEW PROCESSES
So you’ve mapped out your current state processes. You’ve agreed on where to focus the improvement. You’ve settled on a KPI. Now it’s time to document your new processes.
To do this, refer to your current state map. Verbally–and perhaps even literally–walk through every step of the process with your team. As you go through the motions, identify where things go wrong, which steps are redundant, and where communication breaks down.
Now, draft a second process map where these issues are addressed. This time, eliminate redundant steps, streamline circuitous tasks, and develop better communication pathways. This is your “future-state” map.
Once the new process is approved by higher-ups, update all documentation to reflect the new-and-improved process ASAP!
Documentation ensures longevity. If not codified into business documents, your new process may not survive a leadership change, employee turnover, or economic crisis.
New process documentation is equivalent to repairing a damaged roadway. It connects that new process to the larger organization’s framework and allows information and resources to pass through seamlessly.
Curious about process documentation? In this article, we cover everything you need to know about process documentation!
4. SCHEDULE TRAINING
Employee training and development is critical to long-term process sustainability. Your team members cannot be efficient without the proper tools and instruction!
Once leadership has signed off on the new processes and documentation, set up a training plan.
LMS employee training platforms are excellent tools for corporate development. All materials are managed and delivered online. This makes it easier than ever to provide uniform training to large groups. An LMS also provides an anytime-anywhere access to training.
Additionally, LMS software can streamline efficiency measurements. Many LMS programs have built-in features that monitor KPIs.
Whether you choose to go digital or provide in-person training sessions, the most important thing is to just do it!
Proper training does more than just communicate new expectations. It increases employee engagement, which in turn yields further increases in efficiency.
5. CREATE A CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT TEAM
Increasing efficiency throughout an organization is not a one-off project. It requires a concerted effort to peel back the layers of how things are done and determine ways to improve them. For this reason, it’s smart for growth-focused organizations to establish a continuous improvement team.
With a designated team leader, the group targets areas of the business to address improvement opportunities. From project to project, it’s helpful for the team to identify individuals with detailed knowledge of the workgroup or process that is being evaluated. These team members may be ad hoc based on their knowledge of the process and workstream being addressed.
The core continuous improvement team can guide new team members on the approach to identify the current state, KPIs, process documentation, and employee training.
It can be helpful for continuous improvement teams to enlist outside help to navigate through the needs of the organization and help streamline processes. Process improvement consultants specialize in business efficiency and can evaluate the organization objectively. This can help overcome attachment to how things are currently done and resistance to improving the methods.
At RTG Solutions Group, we see each organization as a live organism. In order to thrive, every part of the business must work in unison towards a common goal.
And we know what it takes to achieve this organizational synergy. We apply proven methodology to assess your current state, diagnose problems, generate collaborative solutions, and develop your people.
Improving process efficiency can be a challenge. But with these five expert tips, you can promote long-run productivity gains within your organization.
Interested in boosting your process efficiency? We can help! Our experts teach problem-solving techniques that can be carried on to future projects. This will set your organization on a sure-fire path toward long-term growth.
Contact Us today to speak with our experts!