We often get the question, “How can business processes be improved?” Our clients want to run their practices and businesses more efficiently, which means it’s time to examine and streamline their processes.
Improving workflow efficiency can make your and your employees’ lives easier by cutting down on wasted time, paring back unnecessary steps, and making sure that each step in the process has a deadline and a level of accountability.
This is all easy enough to say, but actually figuring out how to implement process improvement isn’t always a clear-cut path. It’s incredibly helpful to have a specific system to follow. At iProv, we like the Scrum method.
Scrum is an agile project management framework that describes a set of tools, roles, and meetings that work together to help your team structure and manage their workflow. There are other methodologies and variations of agile project management, and any of them may work for your business—feel free to take our tips on how to improve administrative processes and workflow processes and customize them to make them work for you.
Benefits of Streamlining Process
Let’s start with a brief discussion of why streamlining your business processes is a good idea. It’s not an easy procedure, and it does take time and effort. You have to be willing to be honest and uncomfortable before things get better.
But in the long run, when you make workflow easier and more logical for your employees, they’re going to be happier and more productive. And the less time you spend on outdated processes, the more time you have to focus on your company’s goals and culture.
A recent Gallup poll found that only 34 percent of American workers feel engaged in their work as of 2018. Alongside that were 16.5 percent who were “actively disengaged.” Meaning for every two engaged workers, there was an actively disengaged one. Actively disengaged here means “a miserable work experience” that has completely demotivated them to do their jobs.
The other 53 percent consider themselves simply “not engaged,” and could swing in either direction given better work circumstances or job roles. Not engaged doesn’t mean they aren’t working or completing their jobs competently—it just means the work is not meaningful to them, that they’re doing the minimum amount of work to get along and get paid.
Streamlining your business’s processes can reduce errors, speed progress, clarify job roles and descriptions, and create and enforce accountability. All of these are good steps towards improving employee morale and encouraging higher levels of employee engagement.
No matter what size your business is, it can benefit from process streamlining in the following ways:
- Improved communication
- More and better accountability
- Increase in employee morale and engagement
- Clear documentation of procedures and greater visibility into those processes
- Improved team coordination
- Increased productivity and profits
- Clearly defined task ownership and task hierarchy
- Reduced errors, bottlenecks, silos, and missed deadlines
- Higher customer satisfaction
- Elimination of redundant or duplicate work
- Less confusing and overwhelming employee training
- Improved compliance with safety and industry standards
How To Identify Process Improvement Opportunities
Before you can improve your processes you have to be able to identify which processes need to be improved. After all, you don’t want to waste time fixing something that’s not broken or dive in and end up causing extra problems.
Every business has a multitude of processes built into its day-to-day operations. From how you answer the phone to when you respond to an email to how customer complaints are escalated—every job is comprised of processes that can help or hinder.
First, you have to learn to recognize the signs of a bad process. You can often identify an inefficient process by following customer complaints, increased expenses, and signs of overworked staff to their source. Other inefficiencies aren’t as obvious.
A good exercise to help you get started is to take inventory of all of your business processes by department, and then prioritize them by importance. This is where listening becomes very important. Don’t assume you know what people do in your company. Ask each employee to walk through their day to day and list their processes. Then combine those into a master list.
Don’t be afraid to ask for input and try not to get defensive. Remember—growth comes with growing pains. Just because a process has always been there, does not mean it is a good process. Progress often means change and improvement.
How To Improve A Process At Work
By definition, “streamlining” is to alter an item in a way that makes it simpler or more efficient. For example, you can streamline your invoicing process by making sure that the steps are repeatable and consistent, no matter who is creating or sending that invoice.
Once you’ve laid out a work process and defined its individual steps, see if there is anything you can eliminate or shorten. If there is nothing to eliminate, but you feel it is still a bad process, try re-imagining the process altogether. Is there a software or other purchasable tool that would make the work easier or faster? If the process has to remain as is, can you make sure someone is accountable for it so there isn’t any bottlenecking? Could someone in another department make this go faster by helping or picking up that task?
Examine the process from every angle and then make sure everyone understands the new parameters.
After you’ve examined your processes from every angle and done what you can to pare them down and make them run more smoothly, it’s time to look at how you do the work itself. We use the agile method of “sprints” for work.
A sprint is a short, defined amount of time in which your team works to complete a predetermined amount of work. Sprints are at the very heart of agile and scrum methodology. It allows you to build a product in a series of iterations (or “sprints”), so you are essentially breaking a big project into smaller chunks and working towards those smaller goals with focused bursts of intensity.
This way, your team is always delivering towards their goals rather than working towards a hazy idea of a massive project goal. This is especially important for projects that take more than a few months to complete. When your ultimate deadline is a year away, it’s hard to get motivated to work towards it, whereas weekly deadlines and goals are tangible and motivating.
How Can Business Processes Be Improved?
If you’re still asking “How can business processes be improved?”, contact iProv at 501-214-9124. We’re happy to sit down and examine your current business model and help you pinpoint areas in which you could be more successful.
We offer one-time strategy sessions as well as long-term company planning. We’re happy to facilitate a meeting for your business or practice that allows you to work on the business instead of just in the business.