“We achieved phenomenal results leading to an extremely efficient organization. The time required to process commissions with accurate results was reduced by more than 50% with the new process implemented. The capacity gained eliminated the need for additional resources to accommodate Cisco's growing sales force and transaction volume.”

JuneAn Lanigan
Director (former)
Cisco Systems

 

Profitability or Stagnation? Efficiencies or Deficiencies? It’s Your Choice.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is our productivity increasing or decreasing? It has been decreasing globally over the last 10 years (about 30%). (Conference Board, June 2015)  What is your productivity doing?
  • Are you eager to grow revenues in new regions, but hampered by processes that do not scale?
  • Are you having a hard time hiring new employees and then onboarding and skilling them quickly to produce outputs?

If you have any of these concerns, operational efficiencies will impact your bottom line. In addition, understanding workflow and metrics could help your company make more effective choices toward profitability.

You could benefit from process improvement. Process improvement provides a new viewing lens—to see workflow and inefficiencies from the company, customer, and employee perspectives. It provides tools and techniques to model current processes, analyze real data, and identify the root causes of bottlenecks. You can improve your processes for higher quality, greater agility, lower costs, scalability, and faster turnaround or time to market.

But are you ready for process improvement? According to a research study by BPM.com of approximately 500 firms, over 54% of process improvement projects fail because of:

  1. Scope creep
  2. Resistance from the end users and key stakeholders
  3. Lack of executive sponsorship

How can you be in the other half who succeed with process improvement?

This report provides three tools to help you make a good decision to see how changing behaviors and  methods will impact your bottom line.  

  1. A company self-assessment called The I-4 Process Capability Self-Assessment to measure your organization’s current level of process capability.
  2. An analysis of the elements in your company’s self-assessment.
  3. Questions to help you decide whether process improvement will bring the benefits you want.

Take the Self-Assessment yourself right now. See the instructions below to take it electronically at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/I4Capability. Then have several stakeholders within the company take the assessment, including executives, middle managers, and employees. See how each group responds to the provocative questions and determine where your company strengths and challenges are.

Next, use this report to understand how each survey question points to one element of the McKinsey 7S Framework (explained below). Consider how to align each element with other elements to build a holistic approach to increase operational excellence and company performance.

Lastly, review the summary results for your company. In which areas is your company strong? Where are the leaders that make it strong? What challenges does your company still face? What would you need to do to build greater productivity and profits?

Want a personal consultation? Send me a copy of your completed I-4 Process Capability Self-Assessment and your preliminary thoughts. I will provide you a free 30 minute consultation on how to develop a roadmap that will get your company off to the right start, build leadership and employee skills, and create results.

The I-4 Process Capability Self-Assessment

Begin by answering the questions in the I-4 Process Capability Self-Assessment below. It will take you less than 5 minutes. The easiest way to take the survey is online using this URL: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/I4Capability.

If you want to have several employees and managers take it in your company, contact me and I can give you a company code, or I can send the survey to the designated individuals. (Their names will remain confidential.) After taking it online, I will provide you a report that shows your results and how your organization compares to other organizations in the database.

I-4 Process Capability Self-Assessment

Question

Column 1

Column 2

  1. Have you reorganized recently to better serve customers but not much has changed regarding customer service satisfaction?

Yes

No

  1. Is the company’s strategy changing your fundamental operations or just generating special projects?

Special Projects

Fundamental operations

  1. Do you use data from customers and internal operations as the primary driver for decision-making?

No

Yes

  1. Have you tried to make improvements in the company but have not seen the results you wanted?

Yes

No

  1. Do you have customer complaints that are hard to resolve?

Yes

No

  1. Does work involve more paper documents and complexity than necessary?

Yes

No

  1. Have external regulations been incorporated into the work processes so they are smooth and easy to satisfy?

No

Yes

  1. Are handoffs between employees and groups frequently the source of errors, confusion, or friction?

Yes

No

  1. Can new employees quickly perform their primary tasks, as the company prefers them to be performed?

No

Yes

  1. Are you able to incorporate consistent processes as you grow into new regions and globally?

No

Yes

  1. Are employees pushing for clarifying individual roles or forming natural work groups?

Clarifying individual roles

Natural work groups

  1. Are executives prioritizing work in their own division first before projects that benefit the company as a whole?

Yes

No

  1. Is the most common first response to an error to ask “who made that mistake?” or “what went wrong?”

Who made that mistake?

What went wrong?

  1. Do leaders provide answers to work problems or coach employees and teams to find answers on their own?

Leaders provide answers

Leaders coach employees

  1. Does the company value the ability to analyze problems as much as it values domain expertise?

No

Yes

After completing the assessment, count up how many of your answers are in Column 1 and then how many are in Column 2. The more answers you have in Column 2 the better, because Column 2 shows your company has more process capability, whereas Column 1 shows less process capability currently. Less process capability means more deficiencies, lower productivity, and reduced bottom line results.

Process Capability Level One – BEGINNING

If you had 11 to 15 answers in Column 1 and 0 to 4 answers in Column 2, then not much is happening with process improvement in your company. Your company may want to do better, but it keeps trying to improve operational excellence by doing the same things and not making any progress. At this point the company is not paying attention to work processes, but it would benefit significantly from considering process improvement.

Process Capability Level Two – MIDDLE

If you had 6 to 10 answers in Column 1 and 5 to 9 answers in Column 2, then your company is moving toward more process capability, but process success has been mixed. Indeed, the company may not know why it has seen some successes and other failures.

Process Capability Level Three – ADVANCING 

If you had 1 to 5 answers in Column 1 and 10 to 14 answers in Column 2, good for you! You are already on the road to incorporating process efficiencies and workforce effectiveness into the culture, daily work discipline, and profits!

Below I address the each assessment question to show how each question interacts with organizational capability and impacts operational excellence. Consider the actions suggested and see which ones are right for your company.

7S Framework

diagram

An easy way to gain insights from the self-assessment is to use to the McKinsey 7S model shown above. Robert H. Waterman and Tom Peters of McKinsey Consulting developed the seminal model in the 1980’s. The framework shows seven elements that need to be aligned and reinforced to improve performance. Thus, weak elements need to be improved to increase the synergy of the whole model and increase performance results. Each question in the I-4 Process Capability Self-Assessment is matched with its relevant 7S category below.

Let’s look at the questions in the I-4 Process Capability Self-Assessment along with each of the 7S categories.

structure1. Have your reorganized recently to serve customers but not much changed regarding customer service satisfaction?

Question 1 relates to to Structure, or how the company is hierarchically organized, how tasks and people are specialized, and how authority is divided. 

Work processes run horizontally across units and functions in a company to produce an output for the customer. But structural reporting relationship usually are vertical not horizontal. Each executive is responsible for only parts of the horizontal process. It is hard to service customers across the company when leaders and employees are focused on their own BU or functional area.

straetgy2. Is strategy changing your fundamental operations or just generating special projects?

Question 2 relates to Strategy, or ways to achieve a competitive advantage.

Companies will often create a strategic plan that has big goals, saying things like, “These are important goals. Pay attention to them but do them after your regular work.” If you answered “special projects” in Column 1 then your company is adding more work on top of the regular workload (or daily operations) and the strategic plan is not focusing on daily operations. To remain competitive, the strategy needs to impact the work of the core products and services, namely, the daily work.

Ask yourself, does your company have a strategic plan? Is it communicated and available for all employees to see? Do managers and employees know how they can impact the strategic plan? If you want to impact strategy at the BEGINNING level, choose smaller process improvement projects that are within a single function or business unit. Save the more difficult cross-functional projects until the ADVANCING level.

shared-values3. Do you use data from customers and internal operations as the primary driver for decision-making?

Question 3 relates to Shared Values, or the core values of the organization that serve as guiding principles. For example, if your company is still entrepreneurial in spirit, these shared values suggest a customer responsive attitude and a fast-moving pace. Decisions are often based on dictums like, ”Get the sale,” or “Do whatever the customer needs.” Process improvement might be perceived as slow, bureaucratic, and not innovative. Data gathered from customers and internal operations may not float to the top in company decision-making.

At the BEGINNING level, process improvement might be seen as being counter cultural and risky. As companies grow, there is a need for stable work processes and standardization to scale. These companies come to realize the value of work processes and working with complete and accurate information. As the size of a company grows (100 employees or more, and $20 million or more in annual revenue), companies often feel the need for documented processes that are executed consistently.systems

  1. Have you tried to make improvements in the company but have not seen the results you wanted?
  2. Do you have customer complaints that are hard to resolve?
  3. Does work involve more paper documents and complexity than necessary?
  4. Have external regulations been incorporated into the work processes so they are smooth and easy to satisfy?
  5. Are handoffs between employees and groups frequently the source of errors, confusion, or friction?
  6. Can new employees quickly perform their primary tasks, as the company prefers them to be performed?
  7. Are you able to incorporate consistent processes as you grow both globally and into new regions?

Questions 4-10 are all about Systems, or the formal processes and procedures to manage the organization. Examples are performance measures, reward systems, resource allocation, information systems, data systems, etc.

Question 5 asks the about the customer and the feedback they provide. Are you capturing that data? What does it tell you? Do you have customer complaints that don’t seem to get resolved quickly and easily? This may be because customer complaints need to be resolved in several BUs and functions, and the company is not set up to accommodate this. I worked with one organization that had 412 backlogged customer issues. We developed a new method of high response customer service and issue resolution and got the backlog down to 0 in three months. The point is that the old way of handling customer issues just wasn’t working because those issues got lost and delayed between different vertical siloed units.

Questions 6, 7, and 8 cover some of the challenges that get in the way of streamlined work–too much paperwork, departmental or individual shadow systems on desktops (such as desktop Excel files), numerous employee roles, and handoffs between groups. These issues cause waiting and misunderstandings. If your company is able to reduce this complexity, the process will move faster and have fewer errors.

Regulations are necessary constraints, whether you like it or not. Are the regulations in your company an add-on to the work? If you could build regulation controls into the daily work processes, and minimize their delays and waste, the result would yield faster throughput and the accuracy needed. Regulations need to be part of efficient ongoing work and not just a “pain in the neck” that slows things down.

Questions 9 and 10 ask about company growth (a good thing!), whether work processes are scaling to meet the larger needs, and if employee productivity has been challenged. The success of growth often pushes a company beyond its current capabilities. Processes may need to be streamlined and standardized to extend to new regions easily, and employees need to have the skills and knowledge to work more efficiently in the expanding environment.

Now, let’s go back to question 4 for a moment. “Have you tried to make improvements in the company but have not seen the results you wanted?” Boy, this is a big question! When changes don’t produce the results you expected, there are several key questions to consider:

  1. Did you implement the improvements that would remove the underlying causes? Or did implementation fall by the wayside?
  2. Did you prototype these changes and measure them? Did the prototype provide a clear go/no-go signal before the “larger” implementation?
  3. Did you think about change management and user adoption and plan for those when implementing the plan?

The point is you can’t just keep using the same methods and expect new results.

style

  1. Are employees pushing for clarifying individual roles or forming natural work groups?
  2. Are executives prioritizing work in their own division first before projects that benefit the company as a whole?
  3. Is the most common first response to an error to ask “who made that mistake?” or “what
    went wrong?”
  4. Do leaders provide answers to work problems or coach employees and teams to find
    answers on their own?

Questions 11-14 are all about STYLE, or the leadership style of top management and the overall operating style of the organization. These styles become the behavioral norms of the organization and impact how employees and managers work and interact with each other and with their customers.

When employees are asking for role clarifications (question 11), what they are really asking is, “Where are my work boundaries? Is this my role or someone else’s role?” The customer, on the other hand, prefers that employees collaborate and coordinate work processes across the whole corporation, which serves the customer best. The customer does not worry so much about individual employee roles.

If executives prioritize work in their own divisions first (question 12), then they are doing what is important to themselves first. Prioritizing their own work might mean a better bonus for them, but this is not necessarily best for customer needs, or for the company as a whole.

Where does responsibility lie when a problem occurs (question 13)? Who provides answers to problems and how does that happen (question 14)? It is easy to blame employees and work units and call that “accountability,” but if a company takes the time to look beyond pointing at who is “accountable,” it often finds problems in the work processes which need to be fixed first so the employees and departments can perform their jobs better. If leaders provide answers to work problems (question 14), employees learn to depend on them instead of using data, root cause analysis, and doing an onsite observation to formulate solutions on their own.

The questions of STYLE ask whether the company is encouraging employees to question, to use data, and to learn in order to build a company where work processes are analyzed and improved to keep the organization progressing.

skills15. Does the company value the ability to analyze problems as much as it values domain expertise?

The last question is about SKILLS, which refers to the distinctive competencies of employees in the organization, the management practices, systems, and technologies. Do the people predominately have technical skills in their own area or do they have wider skills they use to solve problems and analyze work? These wider skills will enable employees to work with data and processes (on their own) within and across a process. Yes, employees need technical skills in their own domain, but they also need process and analytical skills to look at workflow and analyze data for several problem areas within a work process.

Your Company Process Roadmap

So what should your company do?

If you had 11-15 answers in Column 2, then you are at Process Capability Level One – BEGINNING.

You need to make some initial decisions in order to know how to proceed. First, have these questions stimulated you to pay more attention to process improvement because you think your company would benefit? If the answer is yes, then how should you start? Use the two questions below to focus your thoughts.

  1. Are there business needs in the company that require a new way of working and thinking?
  2. Do you have the leadership that will support initial process improvement projects with the right level of resources (people, time, money)?

Choose a project that is critical for that leader and the company, but not too big. Keep your eyes on the prize—managing the scope and timing of the process improvement project and executing it to achieve successful results. Next, communicate that success and build on that project with another project. The success and promotion of the first few projects is important, as well as what you learn from them.

If you had 6-10 answers in column 2, then you are at Process Capability Level Two – MIDDLE.

Identify your company’s strengths and your best leaders in the process improvement area; determine how each brings you results. Identify your top one or two business process improvement challenges from your answers in Column 1. Then, determine where to extend the breadth of the process improvement effort to additional leaders and projects. Use former leaders as coaches to new BPI leaders and former team members as coaches to members on the new teams. Make sure you are gathering baseline metrics internally and with customers. You may need an external consultant to help you. The consultant’s goal should be to assist in building and implementing successful BPM projects, to train internal people, and to work themselves out of a job.

If you had 1-5 answers in column 2, then you are at Process Capability Level Three – ADVANCING.

Hooray! Your process capability level is growing to greater maturity. The company is ready to think more enterprise-wide. I suggest looking at the company’s strategic objectives, identifying several process improvement leaders, and reviewing key customer and internal data. You may even want to assess yourself against the CMMI process maturity framework. Decide on larger cross-functional projects that will directly impact strategy. Compare yourself to some other best practice companies, such as the ones described in Case Studies in How Organizations Become More Mature. (BPTrends)

What Should Your Company Do Next?

This special report provides (1) a short and easy company self-assessment, (2) an understanding about the results of the assessment, and (3) ideas for the first steps in your Operational Excellence Roadmap. For more specifics, send me a copy of your answers to the I-4 Process Capability Self-Assessment and I will provide you with a free 30 minute consultation on how to develop a company roadmap based your company’s culture, values, current process experience, and leadership style.

Shelley Sweet

Shelley Sweet, President of i4Process, Inc., is a leading BPM expert with over 20 years of experience. She has educated hundreds of individuals and organizations on how to better develop and manage their business process improvement projects through her successful consulting engagements and popular training workshops. She is the author of The BPI Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Guide to Make Your Business Process Improvement Projects Simple, Structured, and Successful (Cody-Cassidy Press, February 2014).

Sweet’s book, The BPI Blueprint, and her training programs are based on a unique 3-PEAT method of modeling processes and analyzing data that accelerates operational improvements, and builds leaders and employees who sustain operational excellence. As a result of this methodology, her stellar track record includes over 100 complex projects that have successfully redesigned processes to eliminate waste, minimize cycle times, and greatly improve customer satisfaction for her clients.

In addition to Shelley’s popular training workshops and webinars, business professionals also learn from following her popular weekly blog at i4process.com/blog. She provides her readers with ideas from her extended business process improvement experience, including practical guides for process modeling and analysis, recommendations for common obstacles, and discussions about key leadership and team roles.

In addition to writing her blog, Shelley is a featured content contributor to bpm.com, the first and most influential news and analysis site dedicated to business process management.

For media interviews, speaking, consulting and training inquiries, or book information, please contact Shelley Sweet: email: ShelleySweet@i4Process.com, call 650-493-1300, or visit her website at www.i4Process.com.