After Process Changes … What’s Next?

Business Process Improvement CourseA process sequence can be a listing or a simple diagram of a process showing all its steps or tasks and how they are connected. Some of the steps will be considered major or critical and others will be supportive or secondary to those major steps. When you begin, identify the main tasks so that you don’t become mired in all the small tasks.

Your team can decide how to structure the process. They could write each task inside a box and later connect the boxes with lines or arrows to show the flow, sequence or connection. Alternatively, they could elect to write each task on a post-it note or an index card and display them on a wall or a board in the logical sequence. Give each process a name for easy reference.

Match Processes with Criteria
Check each of your processes to ensure that it is complete. Does it involve a series of steps or tasks? If not it is not a process. Have you identified and listed the input of raw materials, supplies and information? Each process must have a beginning and an end and result in the output of a product or service. The process must be repeatable and measurable in quality, quantity, time, or consumed materials.

Selling the Changes
In most instances, a proposed solution to a service or process issue has to be presented and sold to senior management before the changes can be implemented. Your team leader or senior management will need to have sufficient information to understand how the change will affect people who are involved and any change in materials. You might be able to make the improvement on your own, but you should seek the advice and help of the stakeholders. Include others at the outset of your improvement effort. This provides the opportunity to avoid the negative impact of a proposed solution on another group of people or processes in the production environment.

If your proposed solution involves materials, parts or customer orders, determine if the quality of the materials or information has a positive or negative effect on processes. For example, “do higher quality materials or information yield a better product or service?” You want to ensure that the methods, techniques and tools are effective and efficient.

Value-Added Steps
Non-value-added time is all the time you spend on activities that do nothing to help meet customer requirements. When you minimize or eliminate activities that don’t add value, you’ll go a long way toward better satisfying customer expectations. In the ideal process, every step adds value. In reality, some steps add value while others don’t. As a rule, eliminate the activities that do not add value. One way to determine if an activity is adding value is to measure and compare elapsed time, hands-on time, and interruption time.

Elapsed time is the time it takes to complete the process from beginning to end. To measure elapsed time, determine how long it takes to complete a process from beginning to end. Hands-on time is the amount of time spent actually working on the process. To measure hands-on time, determine how long it takes to complete each process step. Interruption time is the time spent working on tasks outside the process, such as making phone calls or performing administrative duties. To measure interruption time, determine how much time is spent waiting on people, information, materials or parts.

The difference between the elapsed time and the sum of the hands-on time for each step of the process might be non-value-added time. For example, a process may have an elapsed time of three hours and hands-on time of two hours. That yields non-value added time of one hour. Additionally, some hands-on time might not be value added. It’s important to measure the amount of hands-on time (in hours) devoted to non-value-added steps that result in inspections, rework, duplicate approvals, and time in transit. Too much time spent on these activities often indicates an opportunity for improvement.

Evaluate Results of Improvements
Before we implement a process improvement project, we should design a measurement tool to be used before and after a process improvement to measure and gauge its success. You might not be able to influence the performance of individuals, so measure the effectiveness of your process, not the people involved. Identify the components of your process that affect your ability to meet customer requirements that you or your department can influence. If the data indicate a positive change, you will know that the process improvement has been successful.

The measurement that you use can be simple and effective. Where possible, use existing data sources. Collect data on only one or two key measurements rather than trying to measure every small aspect of customer service. When applicable, devise some new ways of collecting data and resist the temptation to collect data if you don’t intend to use it.

Sample Measurements
Here are some examples of the types of measurements that you can consider with respect to cost, timeliness, or quality:

• Customer satisfaction ratings on cost, timeliness or accuracy
• Number of customer complaints
• Number or amount of process input or output
• Number of exceptions to procedures per day/week/month
• Number of defects or errors in output (per hour/day/week, unit/page/form, etc.)
• Number of on-time jobs (per schedule, contract, or delivery date)
• Time required to produce a report or solve a customer’s problem
• Number of delays or amount of downtime
• Number of on-time deliveries compared to total number of deliveries for a week, month, or quarter

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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