The most successful companies are process improvement masters. No matter how strong your internal processes are, continuous improvement is vital for growth. It helps you maximize productivity, keep up with industry innovations, and surpass competition. However, improving processes is no easy feat.
Humans are remarkably adaptable. And yet, we’re not the biggest fans of change. We tend to be extra skeptical of changes to long-held routines. This makes business process improvement inherently difficult.
In fact, oftentimes, an honest attempt at process improvement can just make things worse! But even though it’s difficult to improve business process efficiency, it’s not impossible. One of the best ways to conquer improving business processes is to know the common pitfalls and challenges.
At RTG Solutions Group, continuous improvement is at the core of what we do and who we are. Our experts help organizations implement business process improvements every day. So you could say that we’ve seen it all. That’s why we’re breaking down the most common pitfalls business leaders make when improving processes and how you can avoid them!
These are the top 4 missteps business leaders make when trying to improve processes.
- Not documenting current-state or future-state processes
- Adopting a solution before understanding the problem
- Implementing technology poorly
- Not measuring results
We hope that shining a light on these prevalent challenges will help your business in its continuous improvement journey!
So, let’s get started.
1. Not documenting current-state or future-state processes
Process improvement is simply impossible without strong documentation. Often, business leaders won’t bother to document current processes before changing them.
You might think that there is no point in documenting processes that are about to be scrapped. However, process documentation is the foundation of improvement. It helps you understand not only how things are currently done, but also where the problems lie. This will ultimately allow you to come up with the best solution possible.
By documenting your current-state processes, you create a starting point upon which to improve. If you skip this step, it’s like tinkering with your business while wearing a blindfold. And sometimes, lack of documentation is the problem to begin with!
But it doesn’t end there. Your new processes also have to be documented. This way, you can implement your process improvements smoothly and sustain them long-term.
If you want to learn more about process documentation, check out our article The Importance of Business Process Documentation in Times of Crisis!
2. Adopting a solution before understanding the problem
Before you land on a solution, it is crucial that you understand the problem. And yet, it is very common for businesses to adopt a solution before digging into the current-state of problems.
This happens for a number of reasons. Sometimes there’s pressure from upper-level leadership to enact quick changes. Other times, process improvement teams get so excited about a promising solution that they embrace it far too early.
When businesses enact solutions without understanding the problem, it’s like slapping a band-aid on a leaky pipe. Not only can this prolong the problem, but it can actually worsen it.
One way to avoid this pitfall is to conduct a thorough needs assessment to start your project. A needs assessment should include current-state process documentation, improvement objectives, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), a timeline, and a few other critical points.
Needs assessments are hard work, but they create an invaluable roadmap for process improvement. Most importantly, they help you steer clear from enacting premature or inadequate solutions.
3. Implementing technology poorly
Nowadays, the business world has a wealth of technology and tools at our disposal. Technology has allowed companies to achieve growth and innovation levels that were once unthinkable. However, it goes without saying that technology implementation is not all sunshine and rainbows.
Oftentimes, technology is adopted as a process improvement measure, but it just creates an even bigger mess! Technology implementation can go wrong for a number of reasons.
First, technology won’t solve underlying process issues. Sure, technology can improve process efficiency. But if your business has poor processes, and you adopt new technology without addressing the underlying procedural issue, that problem will persist.
Second, organizations may pick the wrong tech tool for their needs, goals, and capacity.
Third, every technological change in a business must have an implementation plan. Suppose you’ve conducted a comprehensive needs analysis, found the perfect solution, and identified the right tool to execute that solution. If you don’t create an implementation plan – complete with system tests and training updates – your intervention could be a flop!
That leads us to the fourth and final way that technology implementation can falter: testing. Performing tests and audits on technology is critical for smooth implementation. Process improvement leaders have to check that users can log into the new systems, that computers can run the systems, that everything within the system is working correctly, and more.
It’s extra work, but it will minimize the opportunity cost of launching a new program. Think about it: if employees lose half of a workday due to technical issues, that’s a potential loss of significant revenue!
4. Not measuring results
There’s no way to know if your processes have improved if you don’t measure them. For this reason, you need to establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) at the outset of your project.
KPIs are designated variables to measure outcomes. For example, imagine your business wants to reduce order fulfillment times. To measure the efficacy of your process improvement plan, here are some KPIs you could track:
- Number of timeliness-related customer complaints
- Amount of time it takes to receive inputs
- Amount of time it takes to assemble order once inputs received
- Amount of time a completed order awaits distributor pickup at warehouse
- Amount of time an order is in transit
- Number of orders fulfilled late
- Number of orders on backlog
- Number of stock-outs
All of these variables (and more!) could be KPIs in this example. Selecting the right KPIs is a challenge of its own. KPIs depend on your unique business needs and the process you want to improve. However, if you set the right KPIs and establish a KPI reporting system, your process improvement plan will be founded in real data.
This means you will know for certain if your change resulted in an improvement, or if you need to go back to the drawing board. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the results will be self-evident! Only data can tell you if a business process has improved or not.
The worst thing an organization can be is stagnant. That’s why growth-minded organizations are committed to ongoing process improvement. It prevents stagnation! By continually improving your processes, your company can achieve economies of scale, outpace the competition, and become an industry leader.
At RTG Solutions Group, our experts can help you execute your process improvement vision. Our business consulting firm will walk you through business process improvements and leave your team with tools to solve problems and drive results in the future. Contact us today to start your continuous improvement journey!