Business Process improvement, in my view, is an extension of customer service. Your processes must be efficient and effective to deliver the best possible customer service. Typically we perform our functions as they have been historically performed. In other words, we continue to perform the job in the tried-and-true way. We may also be operating under the axiom, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
One thing is certain, if you have even one customer complaint, there is an opportunity to improve your processes. Process improvements do not have to be huge to create improvements in customer satisfaction, lower costs or increased profits.
The working definition of a process improvement is a series of ongoing, incremental adjustments to a process that allows you to meet your customer’s requirements. Benefits are derived from making these process improvements a continuous part of the job. If we adopt this proactive approach, the improvements can be scheduled to fit the needs of the business and are not reactionary.
Your internal and external customers expect the best. Therefore, any process improvements must involve them as stakeholders to define the basis of the customer’s unhappiness. Improved work processes will help you to increase the satisfaction and loyalty or your customers and increase the job satisfaction and retention of associates and team members. The organization also benefits from improved effectiveness and productivity.
Let’s borrow a term from the Japanese called Kaizen. It means improvement. This concept adopts the position that management has two major components; maintenance and improvement. The objective of the maintenance function is to maintain current technological, managerial, customer service and current operating standards. The improvement function is focused on improving current standards.
The Kaizen concept requires that every day some level of improvement must be made somewhere in the organization and should be based on a customer-driven strategy for improvement. In other words, every management activity should eventually lead to increased customer satisfaction.
The first consideration should be quality, because an organization prospers only if the customers who purchase its products or services are satisfied. Problem solving is viewed as a cross-functional and collaborative effort and process.
Process vs. Result-Oriented Thinking
Kaizen concentrates on improving processes rather than on achieving certain results. The managerial attitude toward process thinking makes a major difference in how an organization masters change and achieves improvements.
Process thinking focuses on the outcome of work rather than on work as an end in itself. In a process enterprise, everyone in the company understands the “why” and “what” of their work. How people are trained and how performance is measured reinforces the outcomes of a process orientation.
All processes are customer-focused and compel a business to see itself and its work from the customer’s perspective, rather than from its own. This new perspective leads to new ways of working.
Processes are institutionalized and do not rely on happenstance in the areas of customer service, leadership, technology, or marketing. Process companies institutionalize success by designing high-performance ways of working.
The basis of business process thinking is that significant management activity should begin with an analysis of the customer’s needs and have as an intrinsic objective, the shared understanding of the key business processes or organizational capabilities that are critical to satisfying those needs.
Commitment to Process Thinking
The commitment to process thinking requires the abandonment of the types of thinking and practices that are inherent in functionally structured organizations. It begins with focusing on being organized and being together. In this context, being organized means having concrete, specific designs for processes so that performance isn’t determined by improvisation or luck.
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